What you see here is artwork showing the rain of Hawaii and Northern California. It’s from photographer Klea McKenna‘s project, “Rain Studies,” and shows what rain looks like when you capture it with photo paper and light, rather than a traditional camera.
The pieces are photograms, which are images created directly onto photo-sensitive paper without the use of a camera. You expose an image onto the paper by placing various subjects on/over the paper, and then develop the paper as you would with any other piece of photo paper exposed in the darkroom.
We featured a similar project earlier this year: you may remember Caleb Charland’s beautiful experiments with creating photogram art using a dripping candle.
Each of McKenna’s 20×24-inch gelatin silver photograms was created using a simple list of ingredients: rain, paper, and light. It took McKenna “ages of working outdoors at night before she eventually developed her technique for capturing the rain patters just right.
Here’s a closer look at one of the pieces:
McKenna tells us that the process is still very “hit or miss” due to the fact that “there are just so many subtle variables with the light, the conditions, and the rain itself.”
The project started while she was visiting a childhood home on the big island of Hawaii, and earlier pieces in the series document the heavy tropical rain seen in that state. Later in the series, McKenna started working with the lighter spring rain seen in Northern California.
“Every storm looks different,” she tells us, and the project is “another way to perceive the feeling of a place, through its imprint, its form and abstraction.”
When we asked her about the technique itself, she said that she prefers to remain quiet about the details:
As you can imagine it has taken me a long to time to develop this method and while I am happy to talk about it and share it, I don’t really want to publish all the technical details. Explaining every detail can take a bit of the magic out of the work, which I would rather not do. This work reflects my own sense of wonder and I appreciate eliciting wonder in viewers too. I’m sure you understand. And to be honest, there really is no secret, they are much like traditional photograms and are simply the result of close observation of nature, trial and error and a lot of curiosity and patience.
If you’re extremely curious, you’ll just have to find out with some good ol’ experimentation of your own. Get your darkroom ready, wait for a rainy storm to hit your area, expose some photo paper outside with various sources of light, and then develop the paper to see what comes out!
Head on over to McKenna’s site to see more of these images and to see more of her photographic work.
Image credits: Photographs by Klea McKenna and used with permission