Jessica Labatte: Gel Divination Photograms

“Moholy-Nagy’s textbook Vision in Motion, which presents his pedagogic approach to art and life, was highly influential on the creation of this series of works. In this textbook, which presents approaches to art making he taught at the New Bauhaus at the Chicago Institute of Design, Moholy-Nagy describes ways of thinking about light, space, time, and creative vision. He instructs readers on different techniques for incorporating experimental practices into the photography classroom. As I prepared to teach a black and white darkroom course in 2014, Moholy-Nagy’s writing inspired me to think about ways to use traditional black and white darkroom materials to create works that addressed the color in the visible light spectrum”.


“The works in the series Gel Divination Photograms use colored gels, tools conventionally used in the studio by photographers to transform the color temperature of light, to address improvisation and chance in the darkroom. Magenta, yellow, orange, green, and red gels are cut into shapes. The artist uses to these fragments to create compositions intuitively responding to shape and color relationships of the pieces. The color relationships created by the artist are upended when the gels are exposed upon silver gelatin paper in the darkroom. As the light from the enlarger filters through the gels, varying shades of grey are created as a result of the gels individual hue and position within the visible light spectrum. Magenta and red gels create high contrast dark greys, while orange and yellow gels create more muted light greys and shades of white. The composition and forms revealed in the final exposure present a new composition unseen by the artist until the print is developed.” – Jessica Labatte