Scanography – Image Making Without A Conventional Camera
Once I was on a photo outing with a Photo enthusiasts’ group. It was a merry image making session, with amateur participants eager to learn a way to operate their cameras, enthusiasts eager to try new techniques and pros discussing new cameras, lenses, and the works.
As usual, as it is in many photo walks, the discussion turned towards quality of equipment and image making. There was no denial between members that good equipment results in a better quality of images. The moment a participant said that to make a good image you need a good camera, and the camp split in to two.
I suddenly found my self on one side, along with two of my pro friends, facing whole bunch of remaining participants. Deliberations continued as to how the image takes shape 4 inches behind the viewfinder and so on…till one participant challenged me saying “if so, please make an image without a camera.”
Challenge accepted, and I said I will revert with not one but a series of Images and that too on social themes, all made without a conventional camera and lens, within a week.
“Scanography is the process of making artistic digital images without the use of an conventional camera, but a normal Flat Bed Scanner. Ideally the Flat Bed scanner is intended to scan two dimensional images and documents, but with some experimenting and prior knowledge of photography, one can scan three dimensional object to show perspective in an other wise two dimensional out put”
The next week in May 2017, there I was with the first set of images from my “Camera-less Series”.
Back Home after that hot summer photo walk, I was pondering on how I would be making the images without a conventional camera. At first, I thought I shall make a box with a pinhole, grab some film, and make images; but that would not be a true image without a camera. A pin Hole camera is a camera too!
So, what next? Sitting by my desk fiddling with a pencil in hand, I glanced around, and my gaze stopped at the Flat Bed Scanner on my desk. And there it was, I could use the flat bed scanner to make my images. It is not a camera, it does not have a lens, it just has a light source and a Charged couple sensor to capture the image… There I was.
It took me some time thinking about themes, but that was not too difficult. I decided that I would make images both with people in the frame and inanimate objects as well. With each frame conveying a theme and a story or a message.
My better half became the props manager for me collecting props and object e based on my inputs of the theme. I was going to use a lot of metaphors in depicting the thematic images and hence needed objects of specific type, colour, and shape; and she did a fantastic job at scouting for them.
I managed to convince my nephew to model for me, and he was too excited (not knowing that this time he does not have to give his usual poses).
I worked image by image on the themes. I had a A4 sized canvas ( scanning glass of the flatbed scanner) for me to lay out my props. The only difference between arranging a still life for camera and arranging a still life for a Scenography is that you arrange objects in a still life for a camera made image as your camera would see it and it is a pretty much normal view, whereas for the scenography each item is placed face down so you only can guess how it looks to the scanner, as you are seeing the unseen side of the object once it is on the scanner glass.
With a few trials on each theme I could get my composition and prop lay out perfect. Except for one image on the theme of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) I made all images as a single still life image. It was only for this theme that I scanned the tree props separately and overlaid them in Photoshop to make a single image as I was constrained by the size of the scanner glass to lay out the props.
My flat-bed scanner is meant to scan films and transparencies and has good control over the output file. I scanned all the images to the best out put given the constraints of my computer system and to best suit the theme. The out puts were high resolution TIFF files, on which I later worked on to in image editing software as I would work on a RAW file to obtain the final images.
You can see some images I made with a short description of the theme below each:
Money Magic… Financial Literacy…
© Milind Tambe
We all earn money.. We all save money.. We all love money.. How many of us are Financially Literate? Are we and our future generations Financially Literate enough to balance Financial Credit and Debt Management in daily life?
Lack of Financial Literacy is not a problem of just the Emerging Economies or Developing countries. It is as big an issue in the Advance Economies or Developed countries. It has nothing to do with formal education… Evidences show highly educated consumers to be at equal risk as less educated and lower income consumers.
Did the financial crisis of 2008 teach us anything? Let us invest in Financial Literacy. Let us teach our future generations the Money Magic… Let us learn ‘How not to work For Money’ but for “How to make Money work for itself”… Are we ready?
The concept for this image was that we are seldom taught about money in the conventional education system, making us either fear money or have a lust for money. Both of which are bad. Further more almost all education systems and social systems force youngster to study well so that they can get a good job that pas them well. And that is all is the knowledge and reference we have of money. Good grades – God Job – Good salary. No one ever teaches us the magic of making money work for it self! And there that was the idea “MAGIC”.
Once I had this catch word in mind the concept there on was simple I wanted to show someone who is juggling money. Knowing that CCD sensor of my flat bed scanned does have a reasonable depth of field, I played with placing my hand in various positions and at varying distance from the scanner glass to get this image. I gives a perfect feeling of some one juggling money, the lowkey helps in enhancing the mystery feel.
In support of the ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ (PTSD) Victims.
Dealing with sexual abuse ( rape, molestation incest, sexual assaults) can be very difficult… It could be nightmarish … Often the visible physical injury, if any, would heal with time.. but what no one sees is the inner pain… The feeling of disgust that the victim goes through. These internal scars remain with the victim throughout.. scars of that nightmare when time stopped… When a few seconds and minutes felt endless… When life turned inside out… Breaking and shattering dreams…That feel of falling in the abyss… Let us help stop sexual abuse… Let us aim at creating a PTSD free society…
I initially started working on this theme after the infamous Nirbhaya case in India ( google it for more information of the infamous humiliating incident). I had no clear idea of what ahd how I wanted to express myself. As years passed by and reading more about the Post Traumatic Stress disorder, I could vaguely realise the thoughts and feeling in the minds of such victims. Then I decided to work with visual metaphors to depict the victim’s feelings. I did not want to depict any living person, and hence decided to buy a barbie doll and dress her up in Blue skirt. The broken bowl that signified broken dignity and bodily integrity, was actually brough from an art deco shop, I actually bout three of them just in case they don’t end up the way I want when I break them. Finally the second bowl broke the way Intended. And finally I managed to get an old watch with roman numbers on the dial for the stopped time look.
For this image I had the final composition in mind, but I was limited by the size of my scanner and hence had to scan each of the elements in this image separately and then combined them alter in editing software to bring the image back to the desired composition.
No.. Please…No…. Stop Child Abuse.
© Milind Tambe
Let us put a stop to Child Abuse… Violence. Child labour. Trafficking. Sexual exploitation. Female genital mutilation/cutting. Child marriage. Millions of children worldwide experience the worst kinds of rights violations. Millions more children, not yet victims, are inadequately protected against them.
UNICEF uses the term ‘child protection’ to refer to prevention and response to violence, exploitation and abuse of children in all contexts. This includes reaching children who are especially vulnerable to these threats, such as those living without family care, on the streets or in situations of conflict or natural disasters. Source : UNICEF.
This image was very much straight forward. I just coaxed my nephew to dirty his hands with soiled and place them on a scanner and later put this face side ways on the scanner glass in between his palm ( eyes closed) and hold still as I scanned the setup. I must say my nephew has given a nice expression of an oppressed child… the soiled palms have gone to add to that gritty feel of a hard working oppressed child.
Having done that series on scanography in 2017, the COVID-19 pandemic gave me another chance to redo the series.
I made several other images in the Part 2 of the Cameraless series which is on going on my Instagram feed. Many have asked me to post my ideas and thoughts behind making these images and also how I made these images, and hence this brief article.
As you will see from the illustrated images, there is no dearth of subject matter for a Scanograph. Though making images with a scanner put in a certain limitations on your image making abilities; the same limitations boost your creativity too. ( If you have not yet read the Power of Limitations, read it here: Power Of Limitations )
You do not have the creative control of aperture, focus or perspective as with a camera. You have to create a perspective and accordingly control focus and depth of field with intricate positioning of the objects on the scanner. There are several ways to be creative in scanography. The more you start playing with objects and their placement you will find new ways to make images.
Those of you who would like to learn more and try your hand at this art form, get yourself a good flatbed scanner with a CCD (Charged Couple Device) sensor as they have a reasonable depth of field for you to play with compositions as compared to a CIS scanner ( Contact Image Scanner). The principals of image making are the same as in conventional photography, only that the light is mote or less flat and frontal, but you can play with positioning of object to bring out shape and texture as well as depth. The more you play, the more you will enjoy.
There is no dearth of information on the net on making these types of images, just Google ‘Scanography’ and you will find no less than 1,36,000 results. But for the benefit of the readers here are some interesting links.
https://photography.tutsplus.com/tutorials/scanography-cameraless-pictures-with-your-scanner–cms-22301 – This is the most basic information.
https://www.scannography.org/ This particular page is a warehouse of scanography related information
http://www.debbvandelinder.com/blog/so-what-exactly-is-scanography This is another good artist to follow
https://expertphotography.com/scanography-photos/</span This is a good resource for ideas
Till then Happy Scanning….Cheers,