by Patrick Appel
How Phillip Sterns describes his series, High Voltage Image Making:
Through the application of high voltage and various chemical agents, this project explores and extends the expressive capacity of instant photographic film technology beyond its ability to capture images of the world. These treatments approach the film technology as a recording media, capable of creating images from physical, electrical, and chemical transformations.
Joseph Flaherty provides more details on the process:
The light from the sparks accounts for some of the bluish colors in the background of the shots, but the electrical “tree” structures, technically called Lichtenberg figures, are created when the electricity vaporizes the silver halides embedded in the film. Stearns adds blooms of chemical color to the compositions by pouring liquids like bleach, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol onto the film and arcing electricity through them. Electrified bleach, for instance, reacts with dyes to produce some nice yellow and magenta hues.