Developed in the early 1800s, photograms are one of the most well-known approaches to creating images without a camera. Photograms are made by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light. The approach usually results in negative shadow images that will vary in tone depending on the transparency of the objects used. Early photographers such as Henry Fox Talbot and Anna Atkins used the photogram technique to document the natural world, but the most famous photograms are those of Man Ray, who dubbed his surrealist images ‘rayograms’. Certainly, the aesthetics of the photogram are almost inseparable from Dada and Surrealism.
New York-based Liz Nielsen’s work is a contemporary application of this process. Nielsen dislocates the photogram from its historic time period, and even from its relationship to photography in the traditional sense, as defined by the notion that an image or impression of a recognizable object would be affixed to the paper. Rather, Nielsen creates handmade negatives with transparent color gels, which she applies in bold shapes and layers to create shifts in form and colour. It is a negative process, so that colors are reversed.
Originally from Wisconsin, Nielsen received her MFA in Photography at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Nielsen’s work has been exhibited extensively in Chicago, New York, and Berlin; her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Schalter Gallery (Berlin), Benrimon Contemporary (New York City), Interlochen Center for the Arts (Interlochen, MI) and Laurence Miller Gallery (New York). Her work has been reviewed in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Artslant, Hyperallergic and the Wall Street Journal. She is represented by Denny Gallery in New York.