Many photographers whole-heartedly align themselves with either analog or digital photography; some even consider the two to be entirely separate mediums. At the end of the day, however, they're both bound together by the lens.
Aside from these two types, another, almost mythical breed of photographer exists. Needing neither DSLR nor Hasselblad, these shutterbugs are camera-less.
Using various photographic practices, some traditional and dated (the photogram and the cyanotype), and others unique (the chemigram, and the 'swallow-your-film-and-let-your-digestive-system-do-the-rest' process), no matter the means, these are artists creating aesthetically unique works that go way beyond the photography to which most of us are accustomed.
In order to introduce you to this truly bizarre and inventive medium, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting camera-less photographers both from the present and past:
1. Luke Evans and Josh Lake
'Untitled' from Xero, 2014
At the other end of the age spectrum, the youngest photographer on our list is Luke Evans (lead image). Born in 1992, and still in the 3rd year of his Photography and Graphic Design undergraduate program at Kingston University, this British photographer has created two bodies of work that are entirely camera-less.
His first and most famous series is called Inside Out. Alongside partner Josh Lake (also lead image), Evans swallowed rolls of 35mm film and had his digestive enzymes ‘process’ the film. The duo "deposited" their film inside of a darkroom, washed the negatives, and printed their exquisite results.
'Untitled' from Inside Out, 2012
For his most recent camera-less project, Xero, Evans utilized 400,000 volts of electricity in a highly-complicated process best detailed here. Regarding this series, Evans states: “the electrical field is destroyed through the process, thus each edition is completely unique.”
2. Floris Neusüss
'Untitled, (Körperfotogramm), Kassel, 1967'
At the ripe age of 74, Floris Neusüss creates enormous “full-body” photograms, inspired by the work of Man Ray and Lázló Moholy-Nagy. To create his images, Neusüss places his entire subjects' bodies onto photosensitive paper, and then exposes them to light. These spectral, sensual renditions of the human body, nicknamed Nudogramms by Neusüss himself, are the stencil-esque result.
3. Garry Fabian Miller
Becoming Magma, 2004
Garry Fabian Miller is another such camera-less photographer who still employs the darkroom process. For his series, Becoming Magma, the artist, “shined light through colored glass vessels and over cut-paper shapes to create forms that record directly onto photographic paper,” a unique process that resulted in cataclysmic, minimalist red and black prints.
4. Pierre Cordier
Chemigram 1-5-70 III, 1970
The oldest photographer on our list, at the age of 81, Belgian photographer Pierre Cordier employs a camera-free process all his own. Dubbed chemigrams, his images employ the traditional chemical processes of photography, including developer, fixer, and light-sensitive paper, but are created in full light. The results are intricate geometrical prints that resemble paintings more than traditional photographs.
5. Alison Rossiter
Kodak Velox F2, Expires Sept. 1, 1941, Processed in 2008
Alison Rossiter's process revolves around using expired photographic paper from the 20th Century. Once she has selected her aged paper, Rossiter brings the sheets to a darkroom and exposes them. What each print will yield is a mystery to her, but the best become like abstract expressionist paintings. She names each print after the paper's name and expiration date, emphasizing the history and nostalgia of her prints.
6. Simone Bergantini
While Simone Bergantini does not exclusively work without a camera— in fact, astrazioni is his only camera-less project— this does not make the artist's images any less compelling. Appearing as combinations of design, geometry, and abstraction his images are made in color darkrooms without the use of negatives. Bergantini states that the series “recounts the experience and the poetics which have fascinated me over the last years and that have taught me to love photography.” We hope he knows that astrazioni makes us love photography, too.
7. Dan Peyton
Dan Peyton is one of the few remaining cyanotype process purists, a purveyor of the process originally developed in the 19th Century. Cyanotyping involves placing an object onto a coated paper (similar to a photogram) and exposing it to the sun; the object’s shadow creates the resulting blue image. Peyton uses quotidian subject matter including birds and flags to make simple, stark images reminiscent of architectural blueprints.
8. Susan Derges
Star Field Crossing, 2013
The last photographer on our list is Susan Derges, whose calm, naturalistic process can only be performed in the dark of night. Fully submerging photographic paper into moving bodies of water, Derges uses the moon and a flashlight to create her unique exposures. As nature becomes Derges’ darkroom, our eyes become entranced.
So is camera-less photography simply an extension of the age-old art, or its own, entirely new discipline? And who did we miss? Post your thoughts in the comments below.