Reflection: Establishing a Shadowgram visual strategy

A shadowgraph is a shadow projected onto a surface that is framed by an optical device. It is largely applied to scientific research using highly sensitive equipment to identify and measure flow patterns. It made me recall the process of the photograms of György Kepes, Man Ray, and László Moholy-Nagy. In my research I didn't come across any artistic applications of the shadowgram function and there is a clear differentiation between the methodology of the two processes. However, rather than the more controlled constructive approach of the photogram (see fig. 1.), I find the responsive observational quality of chance more suited to my personal approach.

 Fig. 1.  Structure Photogram  (c.1939)

Fig. 1. Structure Photogram (c.1939)

I was drawn to the basic idea after submitting my first assignment on Shadow and Surface which explores the psychogrography of making shadow notations in the public space. As a concept, I enjoy the ephemeral response to shadow patterns which come and go which stimulate the urge to capture an image. It is a projection that is impermanent, an image which is a memory without a record. It can often return, but will never be the exactly the same within the fabric of space-time.

I decided to set up an experiment at home where I know of a particular shadow that occurs early in the morning. I marked an A4 sized frame on the wall to create a measurable border with the file. For the expected duration I waited for the coming and going of the sunlight. The particular day was mixed weather conditions so the full potential of the experiment couldn't be realised, however this transience is what made it more engaging because the conditions contribute more a more dynamic ephemerality.

I have shared a small selection above with the time record of each capture. While this is initially a time orientated observation, from an aesthetic view, I enjoy the response to temporal abstractions that appealed to me. But each one is unique as an imprint of light and shadow, the basis of image and experience.


Reflecting on a quote in the Language of Vision; “For the image to remain a living organism, relationships within it must be constantly changing.” (Kepes, 1944/2012, p.52). To act as a continuum of the experiment, I printed an image to A4, creating a 1:1 scale representation of the shadow and placed it within the marks on the wall. This I feel is what created a record of memory that stays alive and lives amongst the space it came from.

I was left thinking about how this relates to my interest in the Asian aesthetic? Perhaps not pictorially. There is a much deeper connection to modernism and my intrigue in James Turrell. However where I believe the connection comes is on a meditational level. In observing nature and the transience of light and shadow it presents a practical exercise which allows contemplation, using the medium of the west without imitating the east.


Kepes, G (1944/2012) Language of Vision. USA: Literary Licensing, LLC.

Moholy-Nagy, L (2009) The Photograms. Catalogue Raisonné. Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag.

Moholy-Nagy Foundation (no date) Available at: (Accessed on 05.09.18).

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Kepes, G (c.1939) Structure Photogram [Photogram] At: (Accessed on 05.09.18)