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What is a Shadowgram?

In the 1750's a group of artists, scientists, pioneers met on Mondays closest to the Full moon. They referred to themselves as the Lunar Men. The full moon ensured that on their way back from the meeting, they would have more light form the moon with which to light their way as they traveled home. One of those in attendance at meetings was Josiah Wedgwood, a potter. His son Tom was known as one of the earlier experimenters in the field of photography. Tom worked towards discovering a way to fix a permanent image on material coated with light sensitive chemicals. He was not successful in this endeavor, but did create temporary light sensitive images were referred to as photograms, or shadow grams.  These images would temporarily reveal themselves by candlelight, but would quickly disappear when exposed to bright light.

For me, the idea of the shadow gram  is incredibly evocative, and filled with mystery and paradox. The shadow gram honors the ephemeral, the liminal. We catch something out of the corner of our eye. A glance. It is a type of portal. We are instantly in a heightened state where nothing exists in the periphery, and we sit on the precipice of possibility, in a completely engaged feeling of anticipation. But the shadow gram is paradoxical and just as it engages the viewer, just as quickly disappears from view. We search. We desire to know more. We feel breathless and completely present in the moment.  It is a moment that is complete in itself. We are immersed in a state of participation mystique (a term first used by Lucien Levy-Bruhl and then further developed by Jung.


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