Ajay Malghan is an artist of Indian descent raised in America who works in multiple mediums. His practice ranges from cameraless use of the chromoskedasic process with black and white silver gelatin paper to photographing sites of the Underground Railroad. After stints in Hong Kong and Austin, he is now based in Baltimore.
Exploring the interstices between photographic and pictorial, where the imagination flourishes
Atom City is cameraless body of work which utilizes the chromoskedasic process to create imagery equally based in landscape and the abstract. By utilizing Activator, Stabilizer, Developer with varying dilutions and ever changing temperatures; the permutations become infinite as well as irreplicable.
Through exploration of the alchemical properties of the silver gelatin content of BW paper, I’m able to obtain tones ranging from reflective silver and gold to subtle pinks and blues. This practice harkens back to the era of when photographers were foremost chemists boiling the craft down to surface, light, and chemistry.
© Ajay Malghan
Polagraphy: Could you please tell us a bit about your background and your work in general?
AM: I’m a 37 year old first generation Indian American/cancer survivor with two fake hips and I live in Baltimore, Maryland. My work is all over the place; it spans from cameraless images of food, experiments with the chromaskedasic process and documenting sites of the Underground Railroad.
Polagraphy: What was your inspiration behind the “Atom City” series? Can you talk us through the process and the execution?
AM: That series started in the summer of 2015 while I had a studio in Austin. Up until that point, my practice was mainly in the color darkroom but it felt like I had exhausted my ideas within that medium. I decided to work with BW Silver Gelatin paper and confine the process to paper, chemicals and light; the paper and its chemical properties became my subject matter. The process began by making images in my 10x10ft studio with no windows, no circulation but a plethora of mosquitoes.
By Fall I returned to Maryland and started digging further into how to manipulate the silver gelatin particles. Research led me to the chromaskedasic process which was pioneered by Dominic Kit-Lam, an ophthalmologist who discovered the process while developing his own medical images. The process relies upon Activator and Stabilizer, which are an acid and base. To make a long answer even longer, they manipulate the size of the particles which reflects different types of light allowing one to obtain gold, silver, green, red, brown, yellow etc.
Polagraphy: With this particular series, you seem to be pushing the limits and definitions of what is pictorial and what is photographic. Do you see yourself continuing to move in this direction, away from any camera and lens work?
AM: I appreciate you seeing that Johnny, it’s not a conscious move per se but my practice seems to be gravitating in that direction.
Polagraphy: I understand you recently donated one of your abstract images to a cancer hospital where you were a former patient. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that? How does art make a difference in such places?
AM: The piece is a painting on glass mounted to a light box which changes colors through a remote. I was in and out of doctors’ offices for 10 years and realized most of the time was spent in the waiting room, all of which are painfully drab. There isn’t much difference between the lounge at Jiffy Lube and the doctor’s office; at least Jiffy Lube has decent reading material and coffee.
We need to put more effort into making patients and their families feel more comfortable in these spaces, being in a visually cold and sterile environment doesn’t help one become healthy. Filling that space with color and emotion can greatly improve the patient experience. Unfortunately due to the way health care is structured in this country, that is not of importance.
Polagraphy: What are you working on next?
AM: I really would like to publish a book of my Hong Kong Alleys work sometime soon. Other than that, I’ll keep painting every day and see where it takes me.
© Ajay Malghan