You may not be aware of the term electrophotography, but you’ve most likely used it. Its other name, xerography, might give you a better idea of what it does.
Using the same technology as Xerox machines (or most photocopier machines for that matter), but for a different purpose, artists such as photographer Tom Carpenter are able to create unique prints.
Modern photocopiers use a drum, but the old machines, such as Carpenter’s use a flate plate system making it ideal for this kind of art.
Carpenter states that while work which is produced with the flat plate system is often referred to as “copy art”, it differs from other copy art in that the “flat plate system is a completely manual camera based process requiring multiple steps and knowledge of photography”.
These manual steps (charging, exposing, developing, transferring and fusing) all happen automatically within a few seconds in a modern photocopier, but having to do the separately and manually are what allow Carpenter to adjust and manipulate his work.
Carpenter offers a breakdown on his website of each step for those interested in how the process itself is done:
“The selenium plate is placed in the charging unit. The plate is exposed to thousands of volts of electricity giving the plate a positive electrostatic charge . A dark slide is slid into the plate holder to protect it from light.”
“The #4 camera is focused on its subject as one would with a traditional medium or large format camera.
The ground glass is removed and selenium plate is inserted. The Dark slide is pulled out and the exposure lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes is made. The areas of the plate that are hit with light lose their positive charge.”
“The plate is now ready for development. The plate is placed on a tray full of toner and carrier beads. The toner is negatively charged. The dark slide is removed and the plate is rocked back and forth. This is known as cascade development. The toner is held to the carrier beads with an electrostatic charge. The parts of the plate that have not been exposed to light still have a positive charge stronger than the carrier beads thus pulling the toner off or them and adhering the toner to the plate.
When the plate is removed the image is complete and should be visible as a revered positive. Like one would see on a Daguerreotype.”
“At this point the image can be transferred. A sheet of paper is placed over the image taking care not to move the paper causing the image to smudge.
The plate and paper are placed back into the charging unit and the same electrostatic charge used for charging the plate is used to “lift” the negatively charged toner onto the piece of paper. The plate is pulled out and the paper is lifted off.”
“The image is now no longer reversed and is ready for fusing. At this stage before fusing one can smudge, draw on or transfer the image to other surfaces.”