Photographer exposes film to bizarre fluids to produce wonderfully odd photos
posted Monday, July 29, 2013 at 2:03 PM EDT
If you've ever processed your own film, the chemistry behind developing it can feel like alchemy. The developing, stopping, fixing, washing, and drying — all with perfect timing and motions — can be difficult to properly get your head around. But what happens when you shoot film, and then expose it to chemicals that it was never intended to meet? Not just cross processing, but some truly bizarre fluids? That's what photographer Matthew Cetta did, and the results are bizarre and wonderful.
His photography series Photogenic Alchemy abuses and alters film in some weird and truly wonderful ways. As he explains on his website:
"However, the images were still bland to me. It came to a point where I wanted to explore the medium of film itself. I embarked on a journey that has led me here. Where is here? Here is a place full of what ifs. What if I electrified my film and then froze it afterward? What if I introduced absinthe to the emulsion? What if I was to soak the film in Ambien before I shot it?
Photogenic Alchemy is an exercise in controlled chaos and a study in the science of art. By breaking down silver salts and celluloid to it’s elemental form, I’ve created a dark and gritty apocalyptic world. It is a world that seems to be dissolving right before our eyes. Toxic and fascinating, each new roll of film left me intrigued. I couldn’t wait to try the next substance on my ever increasing list."
Over the course of his experiments, Cetta has used lemon juice, pepto bismal, absinthe, bleach, electricity, and much more. Each one has produced a different result, and contributes to a corpus of work that makes the film ever weird and wonderful. He shoots the photos using a Holga hacked to take 35mm film — already a device known for its odd and dreamy images, but by pushing them further with his "photogenic alchemy," Cetta has made them even more bizarre.
There's something of a tradition of using weird chemicals to develop film. The Mythbusters even did a piece on it, and there's a long standing technique called Caffenol where you develop your film using instant coffee, washing soda, and vitamin C.