Strindberg, August - Celestographs 1
Type of Spiritual Experience
Douglas Feuk - August Strindberg: Inferno Paintings and Pictures of Paradise (Copenhagen: Edition Bløndal, 1991).
In his experimental photography, there are examples of images that are even more in line with what Strinberg called "natural art." I am thinking of his "celestographs," where the surfaces not only look weathered with an atmospherically-created patina, but even seem to have been made in physical collaboration with the weather.
Strindberg distrusted camera lenses, since he considered them to give a distorted representation of reality. Over the years he built several simple lens-less cameras made from cigar boxes or similar containers with a cardboard front in which he had used a needle to prick a minute hole. But the celestographs were produced by an even more direct method using neither lens nor camera. The experiments involved quite simply placing his photographic plates on a window sill or perhaps directly on the ground (sometimes, he tells us, already lying in the developing bath) and letting them be exposed to the starry sky.
The black or darkly earth-colored pictures that eventually appeared are strewn with a myriad small, lighter dots that Strindberg thought were stars. That they might have been drops of dew, some kind of atmospheric particles, or just some dirt in the developer cannot be ruled out. As soon as the experiments were finished, Strindberg sent both photographs and a written account to the famous astronomer, Camille Flammarion, in Paris. But despite his own mystical inclinations, Flammarion must have considered this photographic method all too absurd and Strindberg never received the official recognition for which he was yearning. Indeed, as a contribution to science or as a representation of nature, these pictures are of course worthless. Their imaginary value, however, is an entirely different question.