Sporography

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“Sporography” print

I’ve been experimenting with a printmaking process that I will call “sporography.” It’s really no different than the spore prints that a mushroom collector makes for identifying species. I’ve always loved the patterns that the fine gill or pore structure produces on the paper. I’ve been taking this a step further by developing it into a fine art print making process. There are a few examples online of others who use this medium, but it seems surprisingly underdeveloped to me.

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Distance softens features, akin to blurred light

The microscopic spores behave remarkably similar to light. For example, the further the mushroom is from the paper, the softer and less defined the features are – just like a blur of light. I like to look at them almost as if they were a photogram created by a mushroom shaped light source resting on photo sensitive paper. I took this a step further by pretending that the mushroom is a light source and placing objects between it and the paper. This effectively makes a spore sprint Rayogram.

The silhouette of a Queen Anne's lace flower

The silhouette of a Queen Anne’s lace flower

There are a couple exceptions. Spores don’t pass through transparent objects, so you are pretty much limited to silhouettes. Think alpha particles… Also, spores don’t refract, or exhibit wave phenomena.

As a photographer who has long departed from the wet dark room and begrudgingly taken up the inkjet printer, I love the simplicity, and non-toxic process. It brings me back to that direct experience without the hassle, mess, and hazard of the old chemicals.

Tips

  • Use a smooth archival cotton paper such as arches hot press
  • Finish the print with an archival fixative commonly used for fixing charcoal drawings
  • A couple drops of water on the mushroom cap will inspire sporulation
  • Cover the ‘exposing’ mushroom with a bowl to prevent air currents from disturbing your work
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