Shaina Gates

artist statement


All of the works included here are unique camera-less photograms. They are made using only sunlight and the manipulated paper itself to create the image; without the use of negatives, darkroom technology, digital tools, or the objects of traditional photogrammetry. Using these camera-less photographic processes allows me to map the physical experience of the paper—materializing the paper’s memory as a visible record.

The included “Cyanograms” and are all original cyanotype photograms. First, the light sensitive solution of photochemical salts is prepared and painted onto the paper. Once it's dry, the paper is folded and crumpled into a flat-folded object, like an abstracted origami form. Beginning with a few unrelated creases, the paper is then gently gathered and tucked and folded in order to make the entire sheet lie flat without tearing. To do this requires attention to multiple points of tension, revealing the arrangement of vertices and creases needed to organize the overall pattern.* Once the paper has been fully flat-folded, it is opened back up to reveal the symmetrical pattern of mountain and valley folds. The surface is then oriented and exposed to the sun, which develops the "Prussian Blue" pigment. Finally, any undeveloped salts are washed away in a water bath, so that the shadows clear to white and the highlights become blue. Finally, each print is dried flat, retaining the image of its former textured surface.

For my “Lumengrams” and “Lumen-Negatives,” the black and white silver gelatin paper or orthochromatic sheet film is initially folded in two or or three places, similar to the cyanotypes. Then, following the inherent limitations of the surface, I find the pattern of sequentially interconnected creases needed to make the material lie flat.* By incorporating flat-foldability as a rule, the seemingly random crease structure tessellates across the paper. In this way, the pattern of mountain and valley folds must conform to certain latent structural principles, which determines the composition and areas of exposure.** Each side is exposed in the sun for hours or days, and then fixed, washed, and flattened. Different colors are produced depending on the paper’s emulsion, the layers of folding, temperature, time of day, etc. Through this process, the paper captures an image of itself in relation to the conditions of its form. This work is reflective of my ongoing interest in the rendering of images across surfaces, systematized processes, and theories related to dimensionality and the organization of space. I’m particularly interested in the way a plane of paper is able to demonstrate these ideas.*** Although they are realized as abstract images, there is a more real realism happening in the way the sensitized surface remembers and materializes its physical experience as a visible record.

* Hull, Thomas, (1994). “On the Mathematics of Flat Origamis.”
** Balankin, Samayoa, Miguel Andres, Patiño Ortiz, & Martinez Cruz, (2010). “Fractal topology of hand-crumpled paper.”
*** Neyrinck, Mark C. (2008). “Origami constraints on the initial-conditions arrangement of dark-matter caustics and streams.”