Susan Derges

Born in 1955, Derges has a strong interest in elemental art, which has led her to adopt photography and the photogram. Disliking the detached image making process of the camera, she likes photograms for their closeness with the subject. Using modern papers, she creates colour casts in her work, which are often formed directly with nature – out of the darkroom.

She uses the dye destruction processes to colour her work, often creating dark and moody images. Compositions tend to fill the frame, with shapes simply as they are in real life.

‘Chladni figure’, Photogram, 1985
Made early on in her photography career, Derges investigated using vibrations and sound with powder to create patterns on the paper. Derges likes to allow her images to ‘come into being’, and the vibration technique allows this to occur. The dark tones and cool blues in this image make it seem like a moon-scape, but with an impossible neat, symmetrical form.

‘Vessel (detail)’, dye destruction print, 1994
This is part of a small set of pieces Derges produced, charting the growth of young frogspawn. Liking the detail of the photogram process, Derges aimed to take it a step forward by placing the jar and spawn in the enlarger head. Again, her composition is cropped to fill the frame. The circle of the jar gives a kinda of inner frame to the image, with the texture of its base showing up on the print. The dots of the frogspawn give a random pattern across the piece and colour is again cool, giving a good contrast. In this set of images, Derges aims to use photogram’s precise nature, to record nature itself, its growth and its development.

‘Shoreline’, Photogram dye destruction print, 1997
‘River Taw’, Photogram dye destruction print, 1998
Frequently working at night in the open air, Derges uses either moonlight or artificial flash to create works which are often submerged below the water. The patterns and effects she achieves through this, here at the coast and below her local River Taw, offer an unusual visual look on the world. The pink tint of her ocean photograms is attributed to the effect of lights from towns and villages bouncing off the clouds. The images are quite textured, with intricate patterns depicting the flows, ripples and waves of the water’s movement. The difference in sharpness between these two prints, is likely to be from the exposure time she used. Shoreline is likely to be naturally lit, by the moon, while the River Taw is more likely to have been exposed with a flash.