Through the Green Fuse

Beyond Cameras, Lenses, and Computers

4 min read by Robert Buelteman. Published in Essays & Stories.
Cyclamen persicum.

Through the Green Fuse is a portfolio of images that I created as an interpretation and celebration of the design of being, and through them, to enhance my understanding of its nature.

Helianthus annus.

Nineteen years ago I felt the need to explore photographic processes beyond both traditional and innovative uses as the means to advance my self-expression. In contrast to those artists who turned to manufactured technology, I embraced simplicity, mindful craftsmanship, and the direct exposure of photographic materials.

Without using either camera or lens, my new technique has more in common with Japanese ink brush painting and improvisational jazz than it does with the current practices of photography. Each delivery of light, like every brush stroke or note played, is unrehearsed, and, once released, cannot be undone.

Energetic Photogrammetry.

The creative process begins with the selection of a living subject, either from the field or from my garden. It is then brought into the studio, where I sculpt it with surgical tools to manage its form and opacity. Afterwards, I move into the darkroom to manipulate it on my imaging easel into the shape of the vision within.

The easel I work on is surrounded by a safety fence of wooden two-by-fours to avoid electrocution and is composed of a piece of aluminium sheet metal floated in a solution of liquid silicone, and sandwiched between two pieces of thick Plexiglas which are sealed at the edges. A high-tension automotive spark plug cable is welded to the aluminium plate to deliver the 40,000-volt electrical flow.

Eucalyptus polyanthemos.

In the darkroom, eight-by-ten-inch Fujichrome RTP colour transparency film is laid flat on the easel. The sculpted subject is then placed on top, with or without layers of diffusion material. It is then wired to a grounding source with cable and clamp.

The actual process of imaging begins with the introduction of high frequency, high voltage electricity into the exposure matrix to create and illuminate the blue aura that emanates from the subject. Then, I use a light source to illuminate the subject by hand. The light is scattered through the diffusion screens, through the subject, and onto the film where the exposure is recorded.

In essence, I regard these as paintings made with the energy of visible light and electricity, using the living plant as both source and filter.

Lupinous arboreus.

The recognition that light in all its manifestations nourishes my life allows me to accept the rigorous demands of this process of imaging as a spiritual exercise. Although the technique has no relationship to those I have used previously, the quality of the creative experience is similar to that of photographing the landscape of my beloved California.

Lillium, sp.

The imagery succeeds when I reach a point where my conscious intention dissipates, and, dependent as it is on my hands and my heart, is replaced by a sense of being a conduit for the serendipitous dance I’ve imagined between subject and spirit. This development creates a perilous condition, moving me into a world that is unfamiliar and full of risk yet seems to be a place I must explore for what it might reveal.

With this work, I am pursuing something that I cannot define, anticipate or manipulate into existence. In surrendering to the dance of art, I see my life and my work as parts of that design of being which I seek to understand.