Ask most anyone, “What is a photograph?”, and they will give you a ready and confident answer.  However, there is a long and storied tradition of photographic images and practices that might slip through the definitions you are likely to receive.  We are here to explore and celebrate these more exotic forms of photography.  And we are taking that one step further - we will focus on those artists who have taken their alternative and experimental work into the new frontier of the NFT.  I want to introduce you to my tribe and encourage you to embrace their wild and free mixture of old and new, art and science, analog and digital, as they explore the limits and possibilities of light, chemistry, and bits.  

We are launching this journey with a showcase of the work of chemigramist, David Sacks.  David, a South African PhD in virology in addition to his photographic practice,  integrates classical techniques with experimental darkroom, mixed media, and digital methods to produce striking images that defy any conventional notion of photography. The image you  see above, The Fifteenth One, is described by David as being created in a process of multiple, layered steps.  First, mixtures of photographic developer and fixer, in powder and liquid form, were applied directly to black and white photographic paper. Thereafter, oil paints were used successively to color the surface. The center of the piece has no paint. There the native chemigram is seen, the colors and patterns the result of a complex interplay of light and chemistry.

In The Sixteenth One, proudly living in the wallet of the author, David uses geometric elements in a chemigram produced using homemade photographic developer - a mixture of coffee, vitamin C, and washing soda.  Inks and varnishes were added to the completed chemigram to produce the final image.

The Sixteenth One

In, The Twelfth One, photographic developer and fixer were spilled and splashed over the paper, developing the basic patterns and textures. Once washed and dried, oil paints were used to emphasize and color elements of the composition.

The Twelfth One

 Let’s let David tell us more about his work.

Can you describe the chemigram process for folks unacquainted with this approach?

That’s a tough question to answer succinctly and it makes more sense if you understand what happens in a darkroom. During traditional silver-gelatin darkroom work, a negative is projected onto light-sensitive paper which is then submerged into developer and then fixer. Developer causes silver to become visible in the regions of the paper that were exposed to light, while the fixer causes unexposed silver to dissolve out of the paper. Whereas photography is “writing with light”, a chemigram is “writing with chemistry”. For a chemigram, a camera, film and darkroom isn’t needed, just light-sensitive paper, developer and fixer. Since the paper is uniformly exposed to light, it is selective development and fixing that produces an image. A resist (which can be anything from nail varnish to honey) is applied to the paper to control how the chemicals develop the paper. Cracks and spaces in the resist allow developer to reach the paper, leading to local development. The paper is then removed from developer and submerged in fixer, leading to local fixing, and this process of alternating chemical baths can be repeated until all of the resist dissolves or chips off the paper. Over time, alternating bands of color and tones (black/grey/brown/gold/yellow/white) progressively build up. Although chance is involved, a skillfull chemigramist can guide these reactions to produce a unique artwork of lines, shapes, forms, tones, textures, patterns and colors.

Where do you look for your inspiration?

I first discovered chemigrams when I learned of the Belgian artist and chemigram pioneer, Pierre Cordier. I clearly recall, now a decade ago (!), when I stumbled onto a book on cameraless photography. I immediately became fascinated with the otherworldly compositions, geometries and textures that could emerge, without a camera, on photographic paper. I enjoy all types of art and work in different mediums and I try to incorporate my different interests and inspirations into my work. I am drawn to the work of the abstract expressionists, post-impressionists, Academists, Romantics and Baroque.

What started you on this journey?

I immediately wanted to learn the “secrets” of Pierre Cordier’s chemigrams once I discovered his work. So I started experimenting right away. Since my background is in biological science, I am naturally drawn toward experimentation and chemistry. So experimental photography seems like a natural progression of my interest in traditional darkroom and digital photography.

What prompted you to expand your work into the NFT realm?

RIght now the NFT space is extremely exciting, the community is enthusiastic, and there is a renewed confidence in art and artists. While NFT art is in its infancy and there are legitimate problems, I think it’s naive to ignore the exposure and reach NFTs provide. Also, since anything can be an NFT, it gives me an opportunity to explore different ways of making art, particularly digital art.

Where do you expect your work to take you in the next year?

Since I began minting my work on the blockchain, I’ve been working to take advantage of what an NFT can be - a picture, animation, music, something interactive. I have experimented with animating my chemigrams and during 2022, I want to further explore this. Also, I plan to work with other experimental and alternative photographic processes - like cyanotypes and pinhole photography. In addition, I want to continue improving my academic drawing and painting skills.

Where can people find your work?

I’m on Twitter (@davidsacksart), Instagram (@davidsacksdavid) and my site My work can be collected on objkt.comand


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