Photographic experiments turned into a labor of love and a thriving business for Tom Bates when he discovered photogram techniques and applied pictures to natural stone.
Bates is the founder of Shots/on\Stone, a hand-crafted photographic print company based in Vienna, Austria. His work is a blend of contemporary techniques and classic photos. A black-and-white wedding picture gains depth and character when it’s applied to stone. You can almost feel the ruffles of fur on a spaniel’s head, and the stark, bare branches of a tree in winter are softened a little where they meet the grain of the stone.
How did he end up printing on stone? Well, it was a long road of learning, and he loved every minute of it. Bates enjoyed traditional darkroom photography, but says he was “especially intrigued to learn more about experimental darkroom techniques such as solarization, selective development and photograms….”
One thing led to another, and soon Bates met his photographic soulmate. “It was while researching these kinds of techniques that I came across liquid emulsion and instantly fell in love with it,” he explains. “Liquid emulsion is photographic emulsion which you melt down and use to expose and develop photos on all kinds of different surfaces.”
Once he had the technique down and mastered applying images to regular photographic paper using liquid emulsion, he decided to experiment some more. He set off in search of the perfect stone for his canvas, one with just enough texture…but not too much. Finally he set his sights on Solnhofen, and it’s developed into a beautiful friendship.
Solnhofen is a natural limestone from Germany that varies in color from creamy yellows to light browns and grays, as well as white. Bates says Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali used Solnhofen for their lithographs. Talk about keeping good company.
“Each Shot/on\Stone tile is hand-painted several times during the process,” Bates says, “with gelatin, then with liquid photographic emulsion, and finally with UV matt varnish (shown above) to seal and protect your finished print.”
Of course since the stones have no frame or glass to enclose them, you can run your fingers over the textured tile, bringing another sense into play as you admire the artwork.
You’ve probably picked up the fact that this is a slow process (“hand-crafted” is usually a reliable pointer). Bates says each stone can take up to a week to complete, as you have to allow time between the various stages.
While Bates is a loyal fan of traditional, old-school photography techniques, he’s happy to report that he can transform very up-to-the-minute digital pics into classic Shot/on\Stone wall art, too.
Just think how many of our gems stay hidden away in a phone or on a laptop. Now you can let your photos go free, for all to see. Somehow we think your favorite Instagram photo will make quite the statement as a Shot/on\Stone wall tile.