Drawing week

Drawing with Light: Experimentation and Alchemy in the Darkroom

This workshop invites you to discover the power of light to transform the everyday world into poetic, hand-crafted photo-based images. Use collected objects to explore how juxtaposing, sequencing and layering leads to an exciting relationship between abstraction and representation, and how these practices are informed by early photographic techniques.

You will be able to book tickets from 9:30am on Wednesday 29 January.


Lecturers: Dr Ella Dreyfus and Amanda Williams

Location: NAS Darkroom and Building 11 Seminar Room

Barbara Hepworth, Self Portrait photogram, 1932-3

“I am doing Photograms, I am having such fun! They reveal the most beautiful new world of light & form.”

(Barbara Hepworth to Ben Nicholson in 1933)

Lisa Oppenheim_Lunagrams 2010
Lisa Oppenheim, Lunagrams 2010

“The daguerreotype is not an instrument to be used to draw nature, but a chemical and physical process which gives her [nature] the ability to reproduce herself”.

(Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, on the announcement of the daguerreotype process, largely considered to be the birth of photography, 1839)

Over the four days you will experiment with alternative photography techniques in an interactive and engaging workshop with two photographic artists who love the traditional ways of making photographs, and who will inspire you into your creative processes in the darkroom. Using basic analogue photographic tools incorporating found objects, light-sensitive paper, chemical processes and exposure to light you will be delighted to learn how simple these alchemical and magical methodologies can be, and how to utilise them to create unique and multi-layered artworks.

The workshop is held in the NAS Photomedia Department and begins with an introduction to historical and contemporary artists who engage with experimental photographic forms. Then you will be introduced to the art of Pinhole photography with cameras that use a technique invented in the 19th Century for scientific recording of natural objects, and later became a popular means of artistic expression. Black and white darkroom procedures are also introduced on the first day, where you will develop the images exposed in the Pinhole cameras.

Justine Varga_ Exit Pink State 2014_2015
Justine Varga, ‘Exit Pink State’, 2014-2015

On the second day you will learn how to make Photograms, (also known as Rayograms, after the artist Man Ray), a photographic method of making a print without using a camera, that simply requires the exposure of light onto photosensitive paper, with objects placed over the paper to block the light and create silhouette patterns. You will be surprised by the free association of conceptual ideas that arise from the unexpected positioning of image and object and use of light and chemicals. To make successful Photograms you’ll need to bring in a wide range of objects (see list below).

Laszlo Moholy Nagy_Photogram c. 1940
Laszlo Moholy Nagy, Photogram c. 1940

Other experimental techniques throughout the workshop include the opportunity make your own negatives with miniature collages on plastic and project them through the enlarger; learn the luminous qualities of Solarisation (also known as the Sabbatier Effect) by exposing photographic paper to light during development; drawing and painting directly onto the paper with developer; re-inverting Photogram prints from negative to positive AND the smart phone will also be utilised as an image and light source to create unusual prints and compositions of images and objects.


The theoretical aspects of the workshop will address ideas of the Archive and Collecting: it’s historical basis in the 20th century / illustrated ways in which artists have used the archive.

Justine Varga_Photogenic Drawing_Australian Centre for Photography 2017
Justine Varga,_’Photogenic Drawing’_Australian Centre for Photography. 2017

Strategies for developing your own archives, to be used in the practical component of the workshop include: collecting / sorting / ordering / creating new meaning and narratives / questioning truth / subverting historical records – playing with histories, both public and private / uncovering forgotten narratives.

You will be introduced to the works of an exciting range of artists working in these genres including current Australian artists and historical photographers:

Coen Young, Justine Varga, Anne Ferran, Amanda Williams, Man Ray, Moholy Nagy, Vera Lutter, Ann Mandelbaum, Lisa Oppenheim, Maholy Nagy, Man Ray, Anna Atkins, William Henry Fox Talbot and more.

Coen Young_First Mirrors 2016
Coen Young, ‘First Mirrors’ 2016
Vera Lutter_Forest_2014
Vera Lutter, ‘Forest’, 2014


Basic materials:

Masking tape, scissors, old paint brushes, apron, hand towel, notebook

One sheet clean glass approximately 10 x 12 inches – you can take a piece of glass out of an old or new frame and cover the edges with masking tape for safe handling

Collection of objects:

Opaque and translucent objects of all kinds – any plastics or glassware

Different kinds of papers – with and without texts and images, textured papers are great eg newsprint, cheap magazines, tissues, toilet paper etc

Fabrics – small items of textured clothing, scarves, fragments of materials

Natural objects eg plants/leaves/flowers – fresh or dried

Tiny items such as sugar, salt, pebbles, toys, jewellery,

Unusually shaped small objects

Old negatives and slides (transparencies)

Chemicals and some photographic paper are provided however additional photographic paper can be purchased from the NAS Photomedia Department.



Ella Dreyfus_Under Twenty Seven_SB 2005 2012 2019_300_LR

Ella Dreyfus “Under Twenty-Seven, SB 2005, 2012, 2019” , digital photographic print, 2019Dr Ella Dreyfus is an Australian contemporary visual artist, photographer, senior lecturer in photography and Head of Public Programs at the National Art School. For over two decades Dreyfus was fascinated by the tenuous nature of the body’s relationship with its borders and how the boundaries became disturbed at certain times of life. Her photographic portraits depicted pregnant women, fat women, circumcised boys, scarred bodies, the old and demented, adolescent boys becoming young men, and female to male transgender people. In later years her focus shifted away from the physical body towards internal and emotional states of being, in a series on fraught familial relationships, and with the names of her deceased relatives placed in historical locations in Europe. Her work has expanded to include installations in public places combined with photography.

Dreyfus’s doctoral thesis Shame and the Aesthetics of Intimacy: Three contemporary artworks (2012) showed how affects can be foregrounded within contemporary art to provide intimate and aesthetic encounters, leading to new relationships between artists, subjects and spectators. In this practice-based research new artworks and exhibitions were created which showed how emotional, physical and cultural shame could be transformed from being a negative affect into a productive and creative force.

Dreyfus is an award-winning artist and best known for her photographic exhibitions The Body Pregnant, Age and Consent, Transman, Under Twelve, Under Twenty, Scumbag, To see beyond what seems to be, I forgive you every day, Intimate Distance and Walking in Wiesbaden. She won the inaugural Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture and was an Australian Postgraduate Award Scholar at the University of NSW, Sydney; she was an Artist-in-Residence at the Cite Internationale des Artes, Paris in 2013, Visual Arts Research Resident at the Banff Centre, Canada in 2014, and an Artist-in-Residence at the Kunsthaus in Wiesbaden, Germany in 2017. For further information visit and


Amanda Williams, “Cooleman Plain Karst, Kosciuszko National Park (Ghost Cave 2)” 2017,
Unique Gelatin Silver Photograph, 118 x 105cm (framed)
Amanda Williams, “Cooleman Plain, Kosciuszko National Park” I, II, III, 2018, Unique Gelatin Silver Photograph, 50.8×61

Amanda Williams is a Sydney based artist who completed a Master of Fine Arts by research at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney (USYD) in 2014. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art history and Theory (USYD) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Class 1 Honours and was awarded the university medal from the University of NSW (UNSW).

Amanda is a sessional lecturer in photography at the National Art School, the University of NSW, Art & Design and Sydney College of Arts (USYD). Most recently Amanda was awarded the National Photography Prize 2018 by the Murray Albury Museum of Art (MAMA) and was also a finalist in the Bowness Prize at Monash Gallery of Art.

Her current artwork examines the history of photography and modernism, specifically the distinction and movement between representation and abstraction and the way any knowledge of this so called dichotomy is ordered and explored through photography. By focusing on analogue photographic processes, often engaging with experimentation in the use of chemicals in the darkroom, attention is drawn to how one’s perception of the process of photography, and the historical content inscribed within the image, is susceptible to change over time. A key aspect of the work is what the image could be seen to ‘do’, how it performs and what it can become over time. In this way, the photographic image is presented as an event in itself not simply the witness to and objective recorder of events. For further information visit and Instagram: swampdeer


Alternative Photographic Practices website –

Bendando, L & Antonini, 2015, M. Experimental Photography: A Handbook of Techniques, USA, Thames and Hudson

Cotton, Charlotte. The Photograph as Contemporary Art, London: Thames & Hudson, (third edition) 2014

Elkins, James (ed.). Photography Theory, New York: Routledge, 2007

Elkins, James. What Photography Is, New York: Routledge, 2011

Fried, Michael. Why photography matters as art as never before, New Haven, Conn. and London: YaleUniversity Press, 2008

Hirsch, R., 2009, Photographic Possibilities: The Expressive Use of Equipment, Ideas, Materials, and Processes (3rd Edition), Focal Press, UK

Renner, E., 2009, Pinhole Photography: From Historic Technique to Digital Application (4th Edition), Focal Press, UK