The Strindberg test (ish)

Having been recently introduced to the Celestographs of August Strindberg, I am  now venturing into testing out his technique – sort of.

Strindberg, who, during the 1890s, dabbled in making these photograms/chemigrams when he apparently had a creative block in his work as a playwright, created the images at night.

This, it is reported, is due to his belief that he was capturing the essence of the stars and universe, but, in reality, the resulting images are likely the chemical reaction to the flotsam and jetsam of debris falling onto his plates.

Yet the resulting images (as below) are reminiscent of later telescopic/satellite photographs taken of the universe.

©August Strindberg 1894 Celestographs Royal Library, Stockholm

There is mention that some of his plates were exposed in developer too while being exposed.

As I am trying to avoid the use of any extra photographic chemicals in the technique I am using for my Harena Now lumen prints, I plan to test exposing sheets of out-of-date black and white paper to the night sky, but without the developer element.

These will then be scanned and manipulated. And, as I save the original exposed paper it does afford me the option of further experimentation with dev and fix at a later date.

The images below have been made with sand applied directly to the paper. They have been given an hour’s exposure in overcast sunlight. Following this, they have been scanned and simply manipulated in Photoshop using the autotone option and some slight tweaking with the curves/dodge and burn options to achieve the look I want.


© Josie Purcell 2018 Harena Now series


© Josie Purcell 2018 Harena Now series

I am also making digital negs of the work of documentary photographers who have been photographing people effected by the sand crisis (I will seek permission for this). These images will be incorporated in the lumen prints with sand to consider how they fit with the more abstract response I have been developing.

The more and more I create work for this project, the more and more it seems to draw me to thoughts about our place in the universe, the effect that the human species has on the planet that supports it, and the human species oft indifferent attitude to working towards sustainable means.

Do these images I am making that are reminiscent of galaxies we will never go to, space we will never fly to and stars that were actually made from the foundation material of our modern-day civilisations, speak to the reality that despite how great we think we are as a species, we are only a moment in the vastness of space and time?

Is there something deep within us that makes caring for the natural environment that supports us seem futile? Is it in our essence to take what we can while we can?

It would seem this is the case in relation to the global sand crisis.