Scanography (also scannography, or scanner photography) is the art of making photographic images using a flatbed camera.
It is a development arising from Xerox art, in which artists use photocopiers to capture and print an image in one step.
Objects are arranged on the scanner’s glass platen before being scanned to produce a digital image which can be manipulated using editing software and this provides scanographers with a level of artistic control which is denied to practitioners of Xerox art.
Scanners are capable of producing a digital negative which captures extremely fine detail, and which also has shallow depth of field – characteristics shared with large format photography.
Darryl Curran, 1995. Carrotid Scan
Darryl Curran is an artist working with scanner technology. His image ‘Carrotid Scan’ is held at the Norton Simon Museum (Pasadena).
The image portrays a seemingly odd assembly of objects: carrots complete with greens, scraps of paper, and a small plate featuring black text on a yellow background are all shown against a background of floral printed textile.
A limited palette allows the vivid orange of the carrots to draw the viewer’s eye to this, the main subject.
Subjects are shown in fine detail except where the shallow depth of field brings an attractive visual aesthetic.
Fundamentally, scanography arises from fairly standard and relatively robust equipment being put to an alternative use: equipment intended for recording and reproducing the mundane and uninteresting (documents) has found a use producing unique works of art which are anything but uninteresting.
It is a process which can be simple, or technically sophisticated – depending on the skill level of the scanographer and the intended effect.
Scanography has a lot of appeal for me – it is an interesting process, producing attractive images. I intend to carry out further research into this method, and use it in my photographic practice in the future.
It’s ability to be a simple process, together with the widespread availability of scanner technology, makes this a cheap, interesting, and educational activity that can involve the whole family – and not just an activity for rainy days. Children love making things and the potential for scanography to produce visually appealing images from almost any object close to hand (parental supervision required) mean that this is an excellent way to introduce an interest in photography at an early age.
See also: ‘Cameraless Photography’