• Making Connections Between Parallel Directions: The Continuative Work of Nolan Preece

    Nolan Preece, Dancer, 2001, Silver Gelatin 16x20
  • THE Philosophy
    Nolan Preece

    THE Philosophy

    This work is about process. It is about a personal journey into chemistry and invention and a search for the aesthetic in experimental photography. Artists try to capture what they see and feel, but at times only out of spontaneity and a series of small serendipities is the path ahead made clear. Photography lends itself to producing a multitude of effects difficult to obtain otherwise. It can be the most direct means of self-expression within time limitations since the image can rapidly be produced once the concept is in mind. Although process and concept in a photograph have an integral relationship and there is a delicate balance between the two, it is easy to overwhelm the concept with technical prowess thus making process the subject of the work.


    Experimentation is everything to photography, both conceptually and technically. The photographer as inventor will use photographic mistakes to deviate from the historic development of photography, with or without a camera. Chemistry may be the least explored area when it comes to new image invention without a camera. The popularity of digital capture has pushed photography so far ahead that unexplored processes have been left behind as was the case in the early days of photography. It is a new day for chemical experimentation in the wet darkroom.


    The fact that brilliant color effects can be created by chemical means on black and white photo paper leaves many questions unanswered. It is gold chloride that does the work to transform silver sulfide into vibrant color, and at the same time giving great longevity to the print. The Nolangram cliché-verre, printed on silver paper from a ghost matrix on glass then duo-toned in selenium, brings forth new exploration being done with camera-less photography. Also, unique to the chromogenic print are methods used to produce simple unique images. The photogram, the first process used to produce an image by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1834, is still with us even today.


    This work is a sampling of new approaches to photography covering a span of 45 years. The evolution is not seamless. The bodies of work presented here were produced after much thought and inquiry. It is artistic nature to struggle with oneself and then come to some sort ofsubjective conclusion in resolving the work. A recent paradigm shift has occurred in photography, not unlike the one in both photography and painting more than a century ago, but all indicators point to a bright future for photography. Digital photography is now taking on the burden once carried by conventional photography and artistic exploration will continue with many outdated photographic processes in the years to come.


    -Nolan Preece

  • The Exhibition

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  • Sizes in Exhibition Have Been Adjusted For The Purpose of Presentation. All Works With True Sizes Are Listed In Each Image Carousel of The Viewing Room


  • Chemigrams, Chemigrams Without a Printed Image Chemigrams, Chemigrams Without a Printed Image Chemigrams, Chemigrams Without a Printed Image


    Chemigrams Without a Printed Image

    The purest and most interesting exploration of chemical abstraction is finding a way to create a color photograph on black & white white silver photo paper. This can be achieved by using a toning, or perhaps a better word, staining agent such as thiourea which is then greatly susceptible to gold toning. A range of yellows, reds, browns and even blues can be obtained with a very dilute gold toner such as GP1. The secret is to let it sit overnight or for a very long time in the solution. Creative application of the chemicals has always been an important addition of mine in the formation of the image. Many of these first images were made at a makeshift photo lab I had at Bio Resources headquarters in Logan, Utah. Quite a few are in private collections and I would guess there are as many as 65 total images in this series, all one-of-a-kind. Dates range from 1983 to 2005. Prints from these two chemigram series were in numerous national exhibitions during the 1980’s.



  • Silver Gelatin Chemigram Prints without a Printed Image

    This body of work provides a chronological record of my life with chemigrams, whereas the image is formed through chemical means rather than light on photographic paper. These images are all one-of-a-kind original silver gelatin prints. Experiments illustrated here such as Something Coming 1981, show my early method of working using thiourea and sodium hydroxide (lye) as a painting medium on silver gelatin photo paper. The images were then gold toned to acquire a range of color from warm to cool creating a simultaneous contrast. Untoned prints such as Black Over Chemigram, 1993 presents only earthy brown colors. Chemical Dollops & Sycopation, 2001 illustrates my use of HC110 developer as a painting medium on silver gelatin paper. The image was then gold toned to obtain a bluish cast.



  • “The viewer senses chemical reactions that have allowed organic or geometric formations to appear, coalesce, congeal or disperse----primeval worlds suggestive of states or conditions hidden to ordinary perception.”

    -Dominique Nahas



  • Chemigrams With Printed Image Chemigrams With Printed Image Chemigrams With Printed Image

    Chemigrams With Printed Image

    With extra time to spare in Logan, UT, when in from the field working for Bio Resources, I started experimenting with chemically formed imagery on silver photo papers. My first inclination was to try to add chemical painting to a printed image by using sodium hydroxide and thiourea then gold toning the image. I initially called my pieces “chemograms” and was quite successful entering national exhibitions. However, in 2011, after a lengthy discussion with Pierre Cordier, father of the chemigram, I deferred to him and started calling my prints “chemigrams.”


    These are some early images in the chemigram field and they run from 1983 to 1993 with a total number of about 30 one-of-a-kind images made by printing the same negative but using a different application of the chemistry.



  • Silver Gelatin Chemigram Prints with a Printed Image

    As my work progressed with the “straight” chemigram (1982), I saw a need to include a printed image from a negative. This process had the advantage that by using gold toner the printed metallic silver image took on a blueish cast whereas the chemical coloration tended to be warm colors. The gold toner also gave great longevity to the print. An early example is Bullfight, 1983. I could experiment using the same negative repetitively and alter the different uses of color and placement from the thiourea, sodium hydroxide and gold toner chemicals. Some attempts were done selectively in open areas of the print. Chemical Nuptials, 1987 and Contact Zone, 1987 are good examples of my early methodology.



  • Silver Gelatin Chemigram Prints with a Printed Image

    Veiled Landscapes (Curtains): A conceptual presentation of environmental devastation

    The Veiled Landscape: Curtains, 1991 is an Eco Art series. By pouring a weak solution of thiourea over a processed print made from my large format negatives, I simulated the illusion of curtains hanging over a landscape, as in a movie theater. Of course, there is a duel meaning to the word “curtains” as it also applies to what is happening to the environment. Good examples are Veiled Landscape (curtains-Tetons) Jackson Lake, 1991 and Veiled Landscape (curtains-Grand Canyon, 1991).



  • Chemigrams using Resists , Including the unique discovery of Using Acrylic Floor Finish Chemigrams using Resists , Including the unique discovery of Using Acrylic Floor Finish Chemigrams using Resists , Including the unique discovery of Using Acrylic Floor Finish

    Chemigrams using Resists

    Including the unique discovery of Using Acrylic Floor Finish

    In 2011 I became influenced by Pierre Cordier's resist methods to make a chemigram on photo paper. After trying some petroleum based resists such as polyurethane and varnish, I was simply overwhelmed by the fumes and I reflected back to the days when I was teaching intaglio printmaking and how we overcame that issue by using Future Floor Finish as a hard ground. I decided to try it on photo paper. What did I have to lose? Acrylics dry quickly, they are easy to clean up and they don't stink. I was so amazed at my first experiments at my lab in Reno, Nevada some of which are displayed here. Who would have guessed that acrylic floor finish, and there are quite a few of them, would work wonders on photo paper as a resist to the developer and fixer.


    The secret to floor finish acrylics, I later discovered, is the relative humidity under which it is applied. Nevada is very dry and after quite a few tests, it became apparent that a relative humidity of 30% or lower is required for it to work best. I have tried spray paint, mineral spirits acrylic, Soluvar, varnishes, oil, wax, and nail polish, but I always go back to my discovery of acrylic floor finishes for a resist on photographic papers. 


    There are over 100 images in this series that I made using resists. Many are commissioned at galleries here in Reno and NYC. I'm offering these 20 one-of-a-kind images to acquisitions. Dates range from 2011 to 2018. 


    Note: My chemigram work is being featured in a textbook coming out this summer titled: The Experimental Darkroom: Contemporary Uses of Traditional Black and White Photographic Materials Editor - Christina Z. Anderson; Publishers - Routledge and Focal Press.



  • Silver Gelatin Chemigram Prints using Resists

    In 2011, I discovered the use of acrylic floor finish as a resist on silver gelatin paper. I immediately started testing many different paper surfaces. The results were fascinating so I put the technique to the real test of forming imagery, partially relying on serendipity. The methods of applying the resist and the type of paper surface used produced the most control over image success. Kodak Ektalure paper, G surface, was an early favorite with Future Floor Finish.
    Shadowgraph, 2014 and Encampment, 2015 are examples of this combination. 1953 Kodak Medalist, J surface, proved to be the most colorful and after research I found that cadmium had been added to the emulsion of some of the 1950’s Kodak papers. I have tested about 30 papers for color and textures. The silver chlorobromide papers work best with the acrylic resists delivering both a warm color palette and a range of texture. With these acrylic floor finishes I have managed to obtain a type of cracking and peeling that creates a patterned ground and has become my signature with the chemigram that is not found elsewhere.


    Mineral Spirits Acrylic (MSA) was used as a resist in Glyphs, 2012 and Dot to Dot, 2016. Blue tape was used as a resist in Tape Take, 2015. Spray paint was used for the Lower Gate, 2013. Polyurethane was processed wet, as a resist through the developer and fixer, with Polyvision, 2013. Work has been published in Photo Technique magazine; The Experimental Darkroom, 2022, and CONSTRUCTED: The Constructed Image in Photography Since 1990, both textbooks.



  • "The beholder is exposed to a unique cameraless vision that values the unexpected and the revelatory. The varied imagery that the artist produces have a textural or haptic feel that gives each print a charged, auratic quality. These forms or areas recall, resemble or suggest architectural spaces and biological or atmospheric conditions."

    -Dominique Nahas



  • Cliché-verre (smoke-on-glass technique) Cliché-verre (smoke-on-glass technique) Cliché-verre (smoke-on-glass technique)

    Cliché-verre (smoke-on-glass technique)

    While working on my MFA, I made a discovery of some significance. I was testing out using smoke-on-glass as an experimental technique, used so famously by the painter Corot. He was trying to mimic an etching by scratching a drawing through the smoke he had applied to a piece of glass and then by printing it, in contact with light sensitive paper to obtain an etching type image. I had applied smoke to a piece of glass using a kerosene lamp when a small amount of the kerosene spilled onto the glass. I was astonished when a beautiful image appeared before my eyes. I had never seen this before in all my research for my MFA. It seemed as if I had discovered a new technique so I set about building a portfolio of work and published a few pieces with my thesis in 1979. In the past 40 years I have never found evidence of anyone creating a body of work with this process before 1979. I found that mineral spirits worked best for I had plenty of that solvent from my intaglio printmaking classes.


    I have created a portfolio totaling 60 pieces. Many of these are digital because the scanner has now replaced the photographic enlarger. I’m offering 20 of these in silver gelatin form, which are some of the last of this series. Dates range from 1979 to 2005 for this 20 piece series. 


    Note: I was awarded the “Rosemary Macmillan Award for Excellence in and Service to the Arts” by the Sierra Arts Foundation in Reno, Nevada, for this work in 2001. An exhibition followed.



  • Silver Gelatin Cliché-verre Prints from Smoke-on-Glass

    In 1979, while working on my MFA thesis, I discovered that solvents dripped on smoke-on-glass created beautiful patterns that could then be placed in an enlarger and printed on photographic paper. At first, I thought it surely had been done before and that I could cite it in my thesis bibliography. The more I researched the more I realized it was obscure at best, possibly just as a novelty. I made it my own. It was published in my MFA thesis in 1980. Because I was passionate about the effects the process created, I set about producing a body of work. I have always been a pretty good printer and I was able to judge the densities accurately when printing the glass negatives.


    In 2001, I added to this portfolio with approximately 33 new 16x20 pieces bringing the total to about 46 prints. From 2001 forward, I selenium split toned many of the 16x20 prints. Total number of prints in mixed formats is 62 dating from 1979 to 2020. Work has been published in Silvershotz and Photo Technique magazines.



  • THE Statement
    Nolan Preece

    THE Statement

     It seems I have always worked within what I call parallel directions. I was trained in the Ansel Adams tradition of the fine print and the zone system at Utah State University. I remember taking a zone system boot camp class from my favorite photo professor A.J. Meek. West coast photographers such as Ansel Adams, Ruth Bernard, Al Weber, Imogen Cunningham and others would frequent our campus giving workshops, lectures, exhibitions and critiques  (late 1960s to early 1980s). I didn't realize what a wonderful experience this was at the time. I have met with Al Weber many times in Carmel Highlands. We worked on a darkrooms book together before he passed away in 2016.


    Winters were very cold in Cache Valley where Utah State is located. Subzero temperatures occurred for weeks at a time and my camera gear just wouldn't function outdoors. I began to play with chemistry in the darkroom during those cold winter months. When I started to work on my MFA, I broke with tradition and decided to do my thesis on the  "Sabattier Effect" or what is commonly known as solarization.


    My second emphasis was printmaking, so I had a variety of solvents around the house. I became interested in the effects of smoke-on-glass simply because it could be put in an enlarger and printed as a negative. I accidentally dribbled some kerosene from the lamp I was using on to the smoke-on-glass and WOW the most beautiful array of patterns and 3D-looking landscapes unfolded before my eyes. I immediately started trying every solvent I had, finally settling on mineral spirits as the cleanest. I solarized some of the best "glassprints" and published them in my thesis in 1980. I had researched what Henry Holmes Smith, Frederick Sommer, Francis Bruguiere, Man Ray and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy had done, however after looking for three more decades for a body of work done along these lines, I have found none. The process has recently been published in a national and an international publication. I jokingly call these glass prints "Nolangrams" after a nickname coined by a student of mine. In reality, it is called "cliché-verre."


    Other chemical experiments soon followed. I went on to invent the "chemogram" a method of painting with chemistry on black & white photo paper and that by using gold toner yields brilliant colors with a cool/warm contrast between the silver sulfide and metallic silver in the print. Recently, I have invented a chemigram process using acrylic floor finish as a resist. Within communications and endorsements from Pierre Cordier, Father of the Chemigram, he has stated about my 2018 solo exhibition in New York City, "Looking at Nolan's chemigrams, I'm astonished! Nolan is presently one of the best artists in our fraternity. He has his own methods and applies them meticulously. He uses the effects of randomness in matter (a characteristic of our technique) but dominates them, which is what sets him apart from the hundreds of amateurs who bravely show their efforts on the internet. Nolan has a project in mind before embarking on it, he foresees what will happen." My most recent chemigram landscapes made by using acrylic floor finish can be seen at nolanpreece.com.


    All the time I was tinkering with chemistry, I still pursued the fine print with my large format cameras. I started working in the "altered landscape" genre in 1981 when I realized, while working for a company named Bio Resources, that huge chunks of pristine desert were about to be bulldozed for oil shale development in eastern Utah. I had just received my MFA and several of us were working with what we called "manscapes." We knew about the work that Richard Misrach, Mark Klett, Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz were doing and, having been trained in the zone system, we were turning out some very handsome prints concerning the environment. I had also become a documentary photographer. My work with the altered landscape can be seen at nolanpreece.net.


    I am still working in these two fine art photography opposites.This exhibition shows similarities between photographing found environments via the fine print, and experimentally building an image from scratch through invention.


    -Nolan Preece