12/15/2014 09:36 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

This Is The Beautiful Result Of Shocking Polaroids With 15,000 Volts

Once upon a time, a Brooklyn-based artist named Phillip Stearns stumbled upon a collection of instant color Fujifilm. Sadly, without the requisite camera, he couldn't produce the spur-of-the-moment, four-by-five gems Polaroid fans love. Instead, he decided to just shock the hell out of the film, with around 15,000 volts from a neon transformer. Because, why not?


His clever experiment, conducted with two electrodes and a copper plate, was a success. So much so that his methods got even weirder. He introduced chemicals (bleach, window cleaner) and pantry items (salt, baking soda) to this electric process, eventually adding in pigments and silver halide. All of these elements blend with light during the development stages to create strangely celestial portraits. He has some control over the images that burst forth, he explained in an interview with Motherboard, but the rest is left up to chemical spontaneity.

"These treatments approach the film technology as a recording media, capable of creating images from physical, electrical, and chemical transformations," Stearns wrote on his past Kickstarter page. There he also cites artists like Man Ray, Pierre Cordier, Marco Breuer, Chris McCaw and Hiroshi Sugimoto as inspiration. It's true, his wild landscapes combine aspects of photograms and chemigrams, producing bursts of color that look at times like a blurry Basquiat painting or a rainbow neuron explosion.

Stearns' show "Evident Material" closes this week at New York's Transfer Gallery. See a preview of his work below, and head over to his website for more.

Phillip Stearns

h/t Feature Shoot



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