One of the things that led me to this way of working…was frustration with not being able to say what I wanted using straight photography.
Artist Klea McKenna diverged from traditional point-and-shoot photography many years ago. In its place, she started experimenting with photographic materials and processes like photograms.
[Above, the artist talks about her unique process and the value of analogue technologies in our increasingly digital world.]
For the uninitiated, photograms use light-sensitive paper to reproduce imagery without the use of a camera. Objects are placed on the paper, which is then exposed to light. For her series “Automatic Earth,” McKenna hand-embosses the paper with imprints of tree rings, cracks in the earth, and other natural phenomena. She then shone light on the paper from different angles to capture the desired image.
Speaking about the switch in media, McKenna says, “I was looking for a kind of visual freedom…I was hoping for alchemy rather than the replication that photography was designed for.” Photograms require a degree of tactility and physical contact that are missing in traditional photography—they are evidence of an exchange, an interaction.
This action is part of what makes McKenna’s work so alluring; despite existing as art objects, they are also strikingly sensorial, capturing the feeling of standing in the dark as rain pelts you from all angles (as in her previous series, “Rain Study”), or a pitch-black forest. Complete darkness is a requisite for the creation of successful photograms, and this meditative environment is palpable in McKenna’s work.
Editors’ note: If you’re interested in hearing more from McKenna, you can check out an interview with her that focuses on her previous series, “Rain Study,” strikingly elegant work that reproduces raindrops using the process described above. More of her work can be found on her website or on Instagram.