Abstract Art Created by Combining High Voltages with Instant Film


After working with standard photography and digital cameras, Brooklyn-based artist Phillip Stearns decided to experiment with creating works of art using old photographic technologies. He ended up studying the effects of high voltages and household cleaning products on instant pull apart color film. The results are pretty wild.

The project has a long name: “Retinal Pigment Epithelium and Other Vision Technologies, Real or Otherwise Imagined“. The materials list was quite small: some Fujifilm FP100-45C Instant Color Film, various household cleaning products (e.g. bleach, vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, salt, rubbing alcohol), and a 15,000 volt ballast from a neon tube.


Each piece in the series is somewhat random and with unpredictable results. Stearns first applied the various chemicals to the surface of the film, both before and after exposing it.

He then took the neon tube ballast and applied 15,000 volts of alternating current to various areas of the film, causing marks that look like explosions and burns in the material itself.


“As in our eyes, images are conveyed in a stream of such electric impulses, only here amplified some 300,000 times,” Stearns writes, “I find it curious and exhilarating that the impressions left behind after developing these extreme exposures so perfectly evokes the blood vessels of the retina”


Here’s a video showing the process in action:

Here are some of the abstract pieces Stearns has created so far:








You can find more images from the series over on the project’s webpage.

(via Photojojo)

  • Mantis


  • Nicholas Butler

    I did this YEARS ago (in the 80’s) with a Television flyback(high voltage coil). Its not that impressive..

  • Gord

    Because you did it before doesn’t make it unimpressive.

  • chubbs

    These are very neat and interesting. I wonder what effects could be achieved through using other film formats or photo paper. I’m curious to try. Though I’d be afraid of frying myself.

  • Jared Youtsey

    If this is “Art” then so is growing mold in a petri dish. This isn’t “Art”. It’s a science experiment where the results are visually interesting. But the “artist” has little control over the outcome. Art is a about influencing things to become interesting.

    Well, I don’t mean to start any kind of flame war. It’s interesting stuff. And “art” is a subjective term. So, if it’s “art” to you, okay. I can live with that.

  • Jason Kim

    Next petapixel article: “Abstract Art Created by Growing Mold on Petri Dish”

  • kb

    It’s fun to fool around with random image making….for about ten minutes. Too bad it’s mostly all in shades of cyan, magenta, and yellow.

    Looks like what we did with liberated packs of Kodak instant film while killing time working in a camera store way back when.

  • Kay O. Sweaver

    Experimentation is the first stage of creating art.

  • Mansgame

    Another “photographer” out of ideas.

  • Kevin

    This sometimes happens happens from static electricity in film cameras. It can look pretty cool despite usually ruining your picture.

  • sa

    old new are not impressive

  • Jonathan Bean

    Not unlike putting polaroid film in the toaster back in the 80’s.