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Music of the Spheres

Russel Kwan
2016 - 2018

In 2016, the discovery of multiple nearby exoplanets and the ensuing flood of artists' renderings of these strange new worlds ignited my memories of original NASA magic: primitive spacecraft photographing the outer reaches of our solar system.  Coincidentally, I've been delving deep into the properties of silver halides, the strange metallic salts that enable primitive photography - an  exploration no less magic than little robots exploring the stars. 

These visions of exoplanets might be inspired by billion-dollar state-sponsored science programs, but are realized with the simplest of salts, light, proprietary chemistry and the magic of plastic plumbing parts.  My photograms are made without a camera, using ordinary black-and white darkroom printing paper, and exist only as single, non-reproducible silver-gelatin prints.  These prints have features that cannot be scanned:  the blue-green colours you see here are the metallic iridescence of a few-atoms-thick plating of silver, created with Opaline, my personal chemical process. The other colours are created by diffraction effects of light passing through finely spaced colloidal silver grains. 

My Generation 1 prints are "eureka!" prints, the first prints outside the lab made with Opaline.  The serial numbers are experiment numbers.  They remind me there is much work to do and many worlds to explore.

The Generation 2 prints feature advances in process and thinking. The Opaline effect is bolder and the process now holds marks made by special tools during processing. The images of Jupiter and Callisto are contact-printed negatives, just one part of the basic photogram exposure. For me, these pictures capture the flavour of unmanned spaceflight.

generation 2: August 2017

generation 1: August 2016

generation 3: August 2018

Generation 3 represents a period of refinement of the Opaline process, leading to a greater range of colour, in both colloidal silver and shiny opaline silver. The neon colours are the shiny, metallic opaline colours, as my scanner renders them.

generation 4: October 2018