How one photographer captures electricity: by zapping instant film with 15,000 volts
posted Friday, May 10, 2013 at 10:38 AM EDT
Phillip Stearns has taken a very different route to capturing the high-speed brilliance of an arc of electricity. Rather than try to photograph the dramatic power of a lightning bolt, or the instantaneous brilliance of an arc of Tesla coil, he's taken a straighter route: by zapping the film directly.
Stearns explains the process as well as offering an artist's statement on his blog. He's pushing to explore the roll of film in a digital world, as well as the parallels between the camera and the eye. In order to achieve these remarkable images, Stearns took to zapping Fujifilm FP100-45C Instant Color Film with a 15,000-volt neon tube ballast. In order to further alter the film and resulting images, he also splattered it with household chemicals both before and after exposure, altering the final colors.
This taps into a long tradition of manipulating instant film. Through scratching, squeezing, and generally abusing peel apart film, you can dramatically alter how the final print looks.
You can see how he does it in the video below, and it's a dramatic and intense act. The arc of electricity scorches the film, and even sometimes ignites it. The images Stearns produces are incredible and vibrant, showing marks that look almost like biological growth.