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Chemigrams are one of the simplest forms of alternative photography one can play with and explore. By placing a resist on silver gelatin coated darkroom paper and exposing it to light, then placing the paper in alternating baths of developer, fix, and water, an endless array of patterns and colors begin to form right before one’s eyes. In the spring of 2022, I began to explore conceptual work using the chemigram process. Moving away from food products as resists, I looked at different materials and combinations of materials, what they meant and represented, their relationship to one another, and how they interacted together.


One of the first non-food combinations I paired was sunscreen and aloe gel. When placed in fix the aloe gel would ‘crack’ and create a unique texture I had never seen before, with different kinds of rings and patterns emerging as it gradually washed away. Sunscreen as a resist took longer to degrade, which created its own unique and more subtle patterns. Combined, the overall appearance of the two resists made me think of squamous cell skin cancer.

I printed silhouette negatives of body parts affected by skin cancer, and after cutting out the silhouettes, applied the sunscreen as an outline of the image and filled the remaining negative space with the aloe gel. The resulting chemigrams are a representation of how we use sunscreen to protect our skin, but it really is only the superficial layer of skin that is protected while what lies beneath, and unseen is often more complex, severe, and damaged than we realize.

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