Is a Photograph a Photograph if it Was Not Made with a Camera, Lens, or Negative?

The ethereal color palette and expressionistic qualities of the work I have been making with ILFORD's photographic paper seemingly resemble the representations of light and color as seen in many landscape paintings (think J.M.W. Turner, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole); however, the work in my on-going project, I Thought You Left / I Wish You Were Here, are lumen prints—a form of camera-less photography where objects or a negative are placed on photosensitive paper and exposed to sunlight, or an Ultra-Violet (UV) light source.

Sam Burzak

Ability to Evoke Emotions

Experimentation in photography has an extensive history of visual artists continually exploring new techniques and pushing the medium’s boundaries. While some photographers would argue that image-making should remain fixed to its mechanical roots, not every contemporary photographic artist may agree. With these lumen prints, I invite the viewers to recall the primary tools of photography: chemicals, light, and paper, to question the process or method of production, and to marvel at photography’s innate ability to evoke emotions.

Sam Burzak

New Ways

By encouraging viewers to question the process/method of production, I generate new ways of thinking about and seeing a photograph, challenge our traditional beliefs and perceptions, and emphasize the significance and beauty of light, especially when immersed in darkness.

An Unexpected Journey

There is always the element of surprise when I step into the darkroom; making lumen and chemigram prints can be an unpredictable and unexpected process—every decision and every movement affects the final result, and it may not always work out for the best (a fact of life). However, it is in those moments—the errors, the disappointment—where we learn and grow the most. I have found that the key lies in shifting your perspective by viewing these occurrences not as mistakes, obstacles, or failures but as serendipitous moments overflowing with beauty and potential. This mindset not only applies to the artistic realm but can also be a valuable philosophy for navigating the complexities of life.

Sam Burzak

UV Light

My lumen and chemigram prints are handmade—created without a camera, lens, or negative— by manipulating water or photographic chemistry onto darkroom paper and directly exposing it to a UV light. I repeat this action a few times to build up layers of water/chemistry to construct these otherworldly landscapes. This process contributes to a certain unpredictability and uniqueness to each print, which I wholeheartedly enjoy.

Sam Burzak


Most of my prints are un-fixed, meaning the longer the paper is being exposed to light, the quicker the pastel hues of pink, purple, and yellow-orange will fade. My decision to leave the prints un-fixed introduces a temporal element as if they have a life of their own, evolving and responding to their environment, much like our flesh and bodies.

Sam Burzak


The reproductions of my prints are rather large; however, the original prints I have made are no larger than 8x10 in. (20.32 x 25.4 cm.)—a standard size for traditional darkroom prints (perfect for beginners) and made with ILFORD Multigrade RC Deluxe paper (I often prefer their pearl surface as it takes the Goldilocks approach: it has just the right amount of sheen that makes your final prints oh-so-magical).

Sam Burzak

I Want to Build You Back from Memory

The art of photography is paramount—it is a creative outlet that has been in my life for nearly three decades and is ever-evolving. Being in the darkroom, making lumen and chemigram prints is not only a meditative process but also temporarily liberating when carrying the burden of grief.

I Thought You Left / I Wish You Were Here

My photographic series, I Thought You Left / I Wish You Were Here, is an intricate embodiment of the essence of life. The series is a culmination of my work, featuring metaphorical portraits made with my late mother's ashes and abstract, otherworldly landscapes that connect to the natural and physical worlds. It delves beyond process-based photography and explores the fundamental aspects of our existence. The series reflects on the fragile, ephemeral nature of life, and the ever-evolving transformation that is innate in both our bodies and the universe. Through my lumen prints, I touch on themes such as grief memory, the passage of time, impermanence, and spirituality.

Sam Burzak

Mother Earth

The images I hold dear in my heart convey a profound connection to my mother, despite her physical absence. I sense her spirit intertwined with nature: in the warm and radiant sunshine and the welcoming blue sky, I see and feel her essence. Her gentle presence is manifested in the cool breeze blowing through the trees, and her beauty is reflected in the butterflies and hummingbirds that bring joy and wonder to my outdoor adventures in the spring and summer. The Rocky Mountains of Colorado resonate with her strength, while the wildflowers flourishing in the valley echo her grace. The epithet ‘Mother Earth’ takes on a deeper meaning when a soul like hers embodies every aspect of the natural world.

Sam Burzak

I Hope

By addressing sensitive and delicate topics such as loss and the fleeting nature of life, I hope to evoke a feeling of tranquility and calmness in those who contemplate my art. I hope these transient landscapes serve as a gentle reminder that our time on this planet is a beautiful but temporary journey and that it is essential to cherish every moment and experience it to the fullest.

Sam Burzak

A Portrait of My Mother, lumen print of my mother’s ashes.


The images a part of my series, I Thought You Left / I Wish You Were Here, are dedicated to my late mother and to all of my lost loved ones who are deeply loved, missed, and celebrated.

Images ©Sam Burzak