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Photograms with X-rays: X-cellent!


* X-rays

* Scissors

* Photographic paper

* Clear Plexiglas[R] or heavy glass

* Photo-processing chemicals in trays

* Sink

* Darkened room with safelight

* Light source (i.e. an enlarger)

* Tiny toy figures and animals, costume jewelry, leaves, feathers, old keys, etc.


Students will ...

* learn how to create a contact print and photogram.

* understand the development process for photographic paper.

* learn the meanings of many photographic terms.

* understand that combining art media adds variety to an artwork and can make it more interesting.

* practice using the elements and principles of design in their compositions.

Bones have a certain fascination, as does photography. Combine the two into one intriguing activity and you have a project with mass appeal.

Beginners can create simple yet striking photographic images and learn about light-sensitive emulsion, contact printing, positive and negative images, fixing and washing prints and more.

GATHER YOUR MATERIALS Ask a local radiology technician for old, "x-tra" X-rays (with the patients' names removed). You'll also need scissors, photographic paper, clear Plexiglas" or heavy glass, processing chemicals in trays, a darkened room with a safelight and a sink, and a light source (an enlarger, perhaps).

An unadorned contact print using an X-ray alone results in dark bones on a white background, and it lacks distinctiveness. You can increase interest and add originality with more "stuff."

In order to incorporate shadow pictures of small opaque objects into the design, gather together tiny toy figures and animals, costume jewelry, leaves, feathers, old keys and more.

The most basic and efficient way of using an X-ray with other objects is to cut around the image of bones, removing and discarding the background film. Although this can be done in ordinary room light, what follows requires a safelight.

IN THE DARKROOM Place the cutouts atop your enlarging paper, on the front or emulsion side (the light-sensitive side). Put a sheet of clean glass or Plexiglas on top of both. Next, organize your objects atop the glass. If you use leaves and feathers, consider tucking them under the pane of glass to flatten them.

Then expose the arrangement to light from the enlarger, with a large aperture and the negative carrier removed. Our photo paper required an exposure time of about eight seconds. Objects can be moved slightly midway through the exposure, if desired, to create more values of light and dark.

Develop the prints for the recommended time for our enlarging paper; then use a stop bath and fixer. After fixing for about ten minutes, wash the prints in lukewarm, running water for twenty minutes. Dry them in a manner best suited to that particular photographic paper.

VARIATIONS Midlevel or more advanced photographers might use whole X-rays instead of cut-outs, burning-in and dodging with multiple exposures rather than the version above.

Another modification in the lesson is to contact-print an X-ray, process and dry the print, and then contact-print that with another sheet of photo paper. What was a black background in the original X-ray is white in the first print, so be sure to place objects on top of those areas you know to be white when exposing the second sheet. The final print will feature white bones and shadow-grams on a dark background.

Photography is enthralling any time you engage in it, but the addition of X-rays makes it especially X-citing.

Now retired, at the time she wrote this article, Paula Guhin taught art at Central High School in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She remains active in art education by sharing her professional experience as a Contributing Editor for Arts & Activities.
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Title Annotation:PHOTOGRAPHIC expression
Author:Guhin, Paula
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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