"Impressions" - Prints using liquid latex on photographic paper

Added on by Liz Naiden.

The Impressions prints are unique works on silver gelatin paper created using an experimental photochemical process of my own invention. Designed to react to light and the specific chemical solutions used in processing, photographic emulsion can also be altered chemically by other means. I have found that liquid latex, a material used in mold-making, can be used as a resistor - a name given to any substance that stabilizes the emulsion eliminating its reactivity to light. Historically, images created by exposing photographic paper to resistors, developers, toners and other liquid chemicals have been called "chemigrams."

Liquid latex, however, possesses attributes that set it apart from other chemistry used to produce images. Most importantly, it is a mimetic substance designed to form a detailed inverse of any surface it comes in contact with. Applied as a liquid, it settles into the texture and shape of its original and cures to a solid. When pressed against photographic paper, latex in the midst of curing induces a chemical reaction in the emulsion, leaving a latent image with a direct indexical relationship to the shape and thickness of the latex. For example, if the latex has settled into the grooves in the palm of my hand, the deeper the groove the thicker the latex will be, and the stronger the reaction in the photographic paper at that particular spot. The result, once the image is revealed by exposure to direct light and traditional processing, is an image in white on a black background not unlike a monoprint, except that no ink, and no latex, has been left on the paper. Latex (life-molding latex especially) is more effective at tracing deep and detailed variations in surfaces than most inks. 

Depending on the thickness of the layer of latex and its exposure to air (along with factors such as temperature, humidity, etc) the curing of the latex can take as little as 30 seconds, giving a small window for it to affect the photographic paper and produce a latent image (fully cured solid latex, like most solids, has no effect on the emulsion). The image produced is not only a two dimensional representation of the three dimensional shape formed by the latex and the original object or surface, it is also a time-specific representation. An impression print of my hand is not only a chemically created image of its surface, but an image of its surface surface at a specific moment in time.

Just as the human body changes over time and my hand will never be exactly the same as it is now, many of the more malleable and delicate objects I have printed with take shapes and leave patterns that I know I will never be able to recreate again. The latex too, is ephemeral - even once cured it would have to be applied thickly in many layers to create a mold that would keep its shape without an original to support it. The thin layers I apply to objects in order to transfer their surface patterns onto photo paper are much too delicate to survive the process of removal from their originals. In many cases, the prints exist as the only record of an unrecoverable or a lost moment in time, not unlike a traditional photograph. 

More notes to come...