Ryan Van Der Hout's work explores the intrinsic nature of the photogram as it is applied to various streams of art. A photographic image made without a camera, the photogram is produced by placing objects directly onto the surface of a photo-sensitive material such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light. The varying tonality of the resulting silhouetted image is determined by the transparent, translucent and opaque qualities of the object photogramed. To these shadowy signatures, Van Der Hout adds luminous hues of manipulated colour by means of filters during the exposure process. Each image is a unique, highly detailed impression of the original object bearing little resemblance to its three-dimensional source and often yielding unexpected but welcome outcomes.
The photogram process is not commonly used today. What brought Van Der Hout to the photogram was the idea of pure and intrinsic art as described by Plato's theory of perfect forms. The Theory of Forms refers to Plato's belief that the material world as it seems to us is not the real world, but only a shadow of the real world. The forms, according to Plato, are roughly speaking archetypes or abstract representations of the many types and properties of things we see all around us. The photogram turns the theory around on itself: we can see beauty in mere shadows of our own world.
Van Der Hout's approach in many of his bodies of work is to separate subject from surrounding context by situating it against a rich, negative black exterior thus emphasizing an infinite visual depth of detail within the image. Each series bears evidence of the artist's fascination with the photogram; itself a dichotomy of rudimentary means generating sophisticated results.
Implicit in Van Der Hout's explorations is the examination of loss and transformation both as the object is mutated by a process into image, and also as a narrative around the changing place of traditional photographic process in an increasingly digital environment. The darkroom is something that has been very important to him throughout his involvement in photography, and it is something that is starting to vanish. With the rise of digital technologies, many young photographers are gravitating away from the darkroom and towards the computer. Photograms are one of the many techniques unique to the darkroom that we stand to lose if traditional processes are no longer taught, and facilities for traditional photography become few and far between.