Zapping Instant Film Makes for Gorgeous Abstract Photos

Phillip Stearns creates gorgeous, abstract nebulas of color by running 15,000 volts through instant film in his new photo series at the Transfer Gallery, 'High Voltage.'

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14 November 2014, 11:30pm

'And Rivers of Silver Halide Poured from Their Eyes', appearing at Transfer Gallery.

For over a year now, Phillip Stearns has been playing the part of an artistic Nikola Tesla. In his High Voltage series, which he crowdfunded on Kickstarter, Stearns subjected instant color film to static discharges by using a transformer, a paperclip, and his hands, then treated it with chemicals to create images that are colorful, luminous, and fractal like Lichtenberg trees.

'They Were Like Planets Orbiting So Closely They Breathed The Same Atmosphere', appearing at Transfer Gallery.

For his Evident Material exhibition, premiering November 15th at Transfer Gallery, Stearns created four brand new large-scale prints of hi-resolution scans. Again, he ran 15,000 volts of alternating current onto Fujifilm FP-100c instant color film, then treated the film with various household chemicals. Stearns then digitized the four images with a 9600 dpi scanner, before scaling them to 76”x59” archival inkjet prints.

“The prints are illuminated via projectors, one projector for each piece,” Stearns told The Creators Project. “Light from projectors is the only source of illumination for the show.”

"Retinal Pigment Epithelium..." Process Documentation 2013 Phillip Stearns from Phillip Stearns on Vimeo.

“The projection is a defocused bar of white light that scans across the pieces slowly from left to right,” he added. “At the end of the scan, the whole piece is illuminated for a total of 30 seconds as the bar of light returns from right to left, expanding as it does so.”

Stearns said that with Evident Material, he's exploring a “revising understanding of materiality in a post-digital environment where physical reality and virtual processes are situated within a complex dynamic.” He also noted that this exhibition and other recent work were inspired by early camera-less photography experiments and extended photographic techniques pioneered by the likes of Hiroshi Sugimoto, Man Ray, Pierre Cordier, Marco Breuer, and others.

“The sentiment that the camera is an extension of the eye is taken to an extreme,” Stearns says of the exhibition. “When looking through the Fujifilm FP-100c instant color film datasheets, the similarities between the layering of materials in the film and the layering of cells in the retinal is striking. Perhaps it is because the development of such film technologies parallels an evolving understanding of how the eye sees.”

Evident Material will be on display at Transfer Gallery from November 15 through December 13, 2014. Click here to learn more.

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