Phillip Stearns electrocutes unexposed instant film with 15,000 volts.
He also pours various household chemicals (like bleach) onto the prints to make the colors and corrosion you see. The process is about as beautiful as the end result. You can watch how it’s done here.
We asked Phillip a few questions about his process:
What inspired you to apply electricity to film as opposed to just chemicals?
My explorations were guided most by what materials I had available. A big batch of this instant color film was being thrown out, presumably by a photographer in my building transitioning out of analog film. Two years ago, I received a batch of neon tubes and high voltage ballasts to drive them. After tinkering with interrupting the process of developing the film (after exposing to light) and discovering the painterly qualities such physical manipulations produced, I started to think about how else I work with the film.
Through experimenting with digital cameras a couple of years prior to these experiments in film, I became aware of Hiroshi Suigimoto’s work of subjecting photopaper to electric discharges and thought that I could try something similar with the neon ballasts and the color film itself.
How did you go about making sure your process was actually safe to do?
I caution, again, this is not safe. No one should try this on their own, unless assisted by a qualified electrician trained in dealing with high voltages, and a physician. Death by electrocution is quite real.
Any other tips or comments you have for photographers who want to explore analog or digital experiments?
Look at what you have around you. Use it differently. Look for potentials that exist just beyond, hidden within the normally prescribed perception of things. Play, but be smart about it. Be safe.
Film Electrocuted with 15,000 Volts of Electricity
I have been trying to understand the idea of “analog glitch” only to come away with processes that reveal the glitch as invisible with only the artifact remaining as a trace of its having been.