Ever wonder what resulting photos would look like if you developed film with various liquids found around the house? Photographer Matthew Cetta does too, and he’s actually spent quite some time finding out. Cetta has been doing experiments through a project called “Photogenic Alchemy,” creating toy camera photos with wild aesthetics by developing the films with all kinds of random things — everything from lemon juice to Pepto Bismol.
The series was born out of a desire to play, Cetta tells us. The School of Visual Arts BFA photo grad was originally playing around shooting lo-fi photos using an old Holga camera when he began thinking about changing the look of his images by altering the film itself.
“A photograph, in its most elemental form, is nothing more than a chemical reaction,” he tells us. Photogenic Alchemy is an attempt to “alter that chemical reaction” using his own set of catalysts as an exercise in “controlled chaos.”
Each photo in the series answers a “What if?” question. “What if I soaked my film in lemon juice? [result shown above] What if I introduced absinthe to the film’s emulsion? What if I electrified the film and then froze it afterward?”
Here are the photos that resulted from Cetta’s attempts to answer those questions and others like them (each caption contains the liquid or processed used to develop that photo):
As you can see, the results have a wide range of looks. Cetta tells us:
Some catalysts would loosen the emulsion – thus making the film highly prone to scratches – some would create drastic color shifts while others would just stain the film, and even, in some cases, the film itself would warp and distort. In the end, Photogenic Alchemy became a study in the science of art.
You can find the entire series of images over on Cetta’s website.
Image credits: Photographs by Matthew Cetta and used with permission