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Generative Photography

Back when he was a student of theoretical physics, Herbert W. Franke became interested in the aesthetic effect of scientific images and thought about the possibilities of analytically generating aesthetic structures. This led him to various experiments with light, but he also investigated materials for artistic applications – such as superimposed transparent foils for moiré effects or even plastic tapes. These early series of generative photography were primarily characterized by analytical studies in the context of mathematical structures. But with the advent of computers, Franke also increasingly focused on „random processes“ as a purposefully applied design principle. The 6×6 slide series entitled Mikrogemälde (Micro Paintings) is somewhat out of the ordinary in this respect, as these motifs of generative photography are primarily characterized by such random processes, but hardly by algorithmic procedures.

The series was created through macro-photographic experiments by applying all-purpose glue–mixed with watercolors to the rear 35mm frame glass plate. After drying, it was „sealed“ with the upper plate.

Another material Franke experimented with artistically in a small, completely unknown series was stretchable plastic film – a completely new development in the chemical industry at the time. Franke was very fascinated by polymer chemistry, because it involved substances invented by man and produced chemically exclusively in the laboratory, materiel taht does not exist in reality. The subject interested him so much that he also tried to write a book about this polymer chemistry at that time. He succeeded in winning the well known Stuttgart Spectrum publishing house, where the popular book Kunststoffe erobern die Welt (Plastics Conquer the World) was then published in 1966.

His artistic Polarograms were created like this: A stretchable plastic skin was pulled over the glass plate of a slide, a second film over the lens of a projector. In combination, this led to colored polarization effects that were captured photographically. In this case, however, as with the micro-paintings, the artist’s creative intervention was not very great, which is why these experiments also resulted in only a small series of images.