Chapter 7: Scanning

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A Photogram of Algae, Anna Atkins from, British Algae, 1843, the first book composed entirely of photographic images.

The first photograms were made by photographic pioneers, William Henry Fox Talbot and Anna Atkins in the mid-1800s. Photograms are made by placing objects on sensitized paper, exposing the objects and paper to light, and processing the paper to reveal the print. A camera is not necessary for the production of this type of graphic image; and the result is more like an abstract impression of the object than a highly detailed rendering. A scanogram is the digital method of producing a “contact” image, similar to a photogram, using a flatbed scanner. Like a photogram, a scanogram is made by placing objects on the “sensitized area,” or the scanner bed, where the surface is exposed to the digital capturing devices that generate a file.

A photogram of lemons, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons in August 2005 by user name Cormaggio.

Photograms have been made by artists (see Anna Atkins’ renderings of natural elements or Man Ray, Lissitzky and Moholy-Nagy’s collages) and by commercial designers (see Paul Rand’s package design and book jackets). The process is fun to explore, because the result always differs from the artist’s expectations.


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