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7 pics

Nychtagraph

"imitate [...] nature's way of creating.”
(August Strindberg, "On Chance in Artistic Creation", 1894)
Swedish artist and playwright August Strindberg (1849 – 1912) unknowingly introduced the formalist photography of the 20th century, when he in the 1890’s initiated his experiments with camera-less photography. Coming from a symbolist mind-set, his wish was to achieve a more truthful representation of the night sky than could be created using a camera, which he distrusted. The experiments involved quite simply placing his photographic plates on a windowsill or directly on the ground and letting them be exposed to the starry sky – he called the resulting images 'celestographs', as he believed to have captured a direct representation of the night sky. His method, however, did not achieve the scientific recognition that he craved for, as it was impossible to prove that the patterns of the images were not merely dirt, dew or the results of a chemical reaction.

But, even if the images did not provide the symbolist Strindberg with solid proof that his method was a more truthful way of representation than conventional photography, his chemical naturalist-approach initiated the methodologies of the formalist art of the 20th century.

As such, we have spent the week investigating the various potentials of the photographic material. Inspired by artists working in the field of camera-less photography, we have become acquainted with photography’s phenomenological outset: that the word ‘photography’ means 'light drawing' and that it is, in fact, light and darkness that are the basis ingredients for analogue photography.

After experimenting with various types of photograms, we set out to remake Strindberg’s celestographs by placing photographic paper directly on the ground and letting it be exposed to the night sky. Acknowledging, however, that the patterns resulted from frost, dirt or dew rather than the starry sky, we wanted to give the pictures a more appropriate name that directly reflected on the actual process that the papers had undergone before being developed. After having discussed various names and combinations, the eventual choice was 'Nychtagraph' – night drawing – which is a combination of the Greek words for ‘night’ and ‘drawing’.

Guest teacher: Marie Kølbæk Iversen