Camera-less Photography

The very first photographs of the nineteenth century were produced without the use of a camera. Today, having rediscovered camera-less techniques, a number of artists are using camera-less photography to create beautiful, startling images. Camera-less photographs show what never really was.
One of the several notable photogram photographers is Floris Neusüss, born 1937 in Germany. Neusüss has dedicated his whole career to extending the practice, study and teaching of the photogram. Alongside his work as an artist, he is known as an influential writer and teacher on camera-less photography.

Neusüss brought renewed ambition to the photogram process, in both scale and visual treatment, with the Körperfotogramms (or whole-body photograms) that he first exhibited in the 1960s. Since that time, he has consistently explored the photogram’s numerous technical, conceptual and visual possibilities.

Past exhibitions and earlier publications have considered Neusüss’s artistic achievement to be the testing and development of the photogram, camera-less photography that was on show at the “Shadow Catchers” exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

The V&A exhibition was a representative selection made by the Münchner Stadtmuseum from the Neusüss archive; the works spanned the years 1958-1983 and fell into four thematic categories: dream images, shop windows, portraits and conceptual photography. The work stretches from Neusüss’s student days to his first teaching post as a professor of experimental photography at the University of Kassel and his activities at the Fotoforum.

In the 1970s, Neusüss’s pictorially analytical and performative work set out to challenge the theoretical and practical constraints of photography. He was particularly interested in the relationship between subject and its photographic depiction and the different levels of reality that arose from the relationship between image, document, reproduction and historical place.
Other forms of early photography include Tintypes, Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes.

The earliest non-film, non-paper photographs were Daguerreotypes. They were made between about 1839 and 1860, although some continued to be made up until present time by those who admire this process. The image set onto polished silver — this was a non-emulsion method — so they have a mirrored surface in which you can see your reflection. You won’t find this with any other type of photographic process. This highly reflective cover makes it a little difficult to understand the image itself without turning it back and forth until it is at an angle where the subject matter is visible and apparent.

The Ambrotype was the favoured successor to the Daguerreotype. While the image was inferior to the Daguerreotypes, it was cheaper and easier to produce. It is considered to have an image quality between Daguerreotypes and tintypes. Ambrotypes were at the height of their popularity between about 1853 and 1870. Today one of the leading photographers producing Ambrotypes is Ian Ruhter. You can find out more about Ian HERE.