Some Account
of the Art of
PHOTOGENIC DRAWING

or the process by which
NATURAL OBJECTS

may be made to delineate themselves without the aid of the artist's pencil.

The title is paraphrased from a brochure published in 1839 by William Henry Fox Talbot.
It was the world's first separate publication on photography, and in it Fox Talbot described how he placed objects on silver nitrate or silver chloride paper, exposed them to light, then fixed the images with ammonia or potassium iodide. He called the results Photogenic Drawings:

1 Made without cameras or lenses, Photogenic Drawings (or Photograms, as we would now call them) have been utilised by photographers and artists for over 160 years.
Anna Atkins, possibly the first published female photographer, made some remarkable photograms of flowers in the 1850s:
1 The same technique has been used by many others, notably Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray. and El Lissitzky: 1 1 1 David Dennison's own work is inspired and informed by these early approaches, and also by the projects undertaken by such photographers as Karl Blossfeldt, Albert Renger-Patzsch and Carl Struwe in the 1920s and 30s.
Their use of natural forms and their desire for an "active and direct relationship with Nature" is combined here with photography's ability to see what we cannot see.
1 1 The images you see on this website are an attempt to explore the visual qualities of the subject in the most simple and unmediated manner (if any photography can be unmediated) by placing natural objects on film and exposing them to light. Technically, this is the same process that William Henry Fox Talbot used in 1839.

The resulting photograms allow David to explore subjects in a way that can be seen as both realistic and impressionistic. Sometimes outlines are quite sharply formed while central areas become a blur of colour and light; at other times, when the subject is further away from the film, the image is much more diffuse as colours and tones merge into one another.

The work is an ongoing exploration of a particularly Victorian concept – "a time when Nature, Truth and Beauty were understood to be closely intertwined".

"I have found . . . that the object is better obtained by the whole subject being a little out of focus, thereby giving a greater breadth of effect, and consequently more suggestive of the true character of nature."
Sir William Newton, in a paper delivered to to the Photographic Society of London, 1853.


Biography

David's early career included industrial photography and graphic design, after which he started to teach. He soon found that he loved teaching, and has remained in education for more than 25 years.

Until July 2010 he was responsible for the photography degree programmes at Blackpool and The Fylde College.

He is now a lecturer in photography at the University of Central Lancashire.

photograms series 2 photograms series 2
photograms series 2 photograms series 2

  W H Fox Talbot, Photogenic Drawing of Feathers
and Lace, 1839.
Anna Atkins, Papaver (Oriental), cyanotype, c1853. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy , Photogram, 1924. Man Ray, Photogram No.86, 1920. El Lissitzky , Composition with Pliers, c 1924. Albert Renger-Patzsch, A Teazel, 1934. Carl Struwe, Ocean Rhythms in the Structure of A Sea Algae, 1930.