Camera-less Photography is the designation commonly attributed to the technique used in these works. The process, chemigram, was named and invented in 1956 by Belgian artist, Pierre Cordier, with whom Gundi Falk collaborates and widely exhibits since 2011.


Gundi Falk is an image maker with a unique ability to construct visual experiments. She is not interested in catching the real, the visible, but in what underlies the visible. Falk explores the possibility of constructing reality and has faith in the idea that constructions are as real as anything.

By questioning the very essence of the photographic process, she subverts the imaging process by depicting the chemical and physical events in a partially calculated way, rendering images not developing them. Working in many ways more like a painter than a photographer, she replaces the canvas with photographic paper and attempts to let representations emerge out of the abstract materiality of the chemicals as she manipulates them. She interprets and responds as the image progresses in front of her, incorporating what August Strindberg called, and later the Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists, “chance in artistic creation”.

The results hover between form and formlessness.

The images on display show what has never really existed and leave room to appeal to the imagination, accepting elements of mystery, revealing the unseen, the intangible, entering the labyrinth of the subconscious.  Although landscapes in subject matter, these works can also be seen as metaphors for her inner moods, offering insight into the mind of the artist.They are the result of a complex game of controlled and uncontrollable chance, impossible to realise by any other means.

The chemigram, invented in 1956 by Belgian artist Pierre Cordier with whom Falk has been collaborating and widely exhibiting since 2011, remains an opaque process. Although commonly described as a camera-less medium, it cannot be classed as a photograph or a photogram, for it does not rely solely on light or negatives to produce an image.

As in the case of the photogram, the result is unique.

These camera-less photographic images are the result of exposing photographic paper to the same chemicals usually employed to develop and fix images, but in unconventional ways. Additional materials localise and particularise the chemical events taking place. They include oil and varnish, but also honey, syrup or nail polish, all of which interact with the chemicals and paper in different ways.

Experiments in photography develop out of an idea about photography’s ability to give form to the intangible.

Methods and aesthetics associated with early science photography have surface again in recent years with profound and enduring influences into the field of fine art photographic practice.  This influence, rooted in the sense of wonder with which scientific images are often met, has helped to introduce a radically abstract vocabulary in the work of a range of artists interested in exploring the non figurative effects created by camera-less techniques.

Camera-less techniques were explored at the dawn of photography in the 1830s, were popular again during the 1920s, and have been rediscovered by contemporary artists in the midst of the digital age.

Various reasons seem to be responsible for the revival in recent years of an increasing interest in camera-less photography. Chief among them is the rapid expansion of networked digital technologies and their impact on traditional forms of photography. There is a nostalgia for the alchemical appeal of alternative chemistry-based processes which are now being further liberated from their descriptive functions to be reborn in radically modern ways.

The growing interest in camera-less photography has reinforced and rehabilitated the idea of the photograph as object, the notion that photographs are not only images but also things, and that photography can be a generative rather than imitative form. 

Isa Dreyer-Botelho