Cameraless Botanical Photographs Captured by Electrical Pulses

Purple Clematis photographyPurple Clematis

San Francisco Bay Area photographer Robert Buelteman has been making images for over 20 years. This work, Through The Green Fuse, was made through an elaborate practice of camerless photography involving electrical pulses and hand-painting. Some images can take up to 150 attempts to get right. Buetleman writes:

My cameraless photographs are images created as an interpretation and celebration of the design of being. In March 1999, I began to feel a need to explore the tools of my medium beyond both their traditional and innovative uses as means to advance self-expression. In contrast to those artists who are turning to technology for additional tools to achieve their own freedoms, I turned to simplicity, mindful craftsmanship and the direct exposure of photographic materials to exercise my own freedom of expression.

Using neither camera nor lens, my new technique has more in common with Japanese ink brush painting and improvisational jazz than it does with the current practices of photography. Each delivery of light, like every brush stroke or note played, is unrehearsed, and, once released, cannot be undone. The recognition that light in all its manifestations nourishes my life allows me to accept the rigorous demands of this process of imaging as an exercise in awakening. Although the technique has no relationship to those I have used previously, the quality of the creative experience is similar to that of photographing the landscape of my beloved California.

The imagery succeeds once I reach a point where my conscious intention dissipates, and is replaced by a sense of being a conduit for the serendipitous dance I’ve imagined between the subject of the piece and the spirit of its expression. This shift creates a perilous condition, moving me into a world that is unfamiliar and full of risk, but vibrant and full of possibility. With this work, I am pursuing something that I cannot define, anticipate or manipulate into existence. In surrendering to the dance of art, I see my life and my work as parts of that design of being which I seek to understand.

You can read more about Buelteman’s technique and process on

Chrysanthemum-coronarium photographyChrysanthemum Coronarium

Pecos Oak photographyPecos Oak

Cyclamen-persicum photographyCyclamen Persicum

Cannabis-sativa photographyCannabis Sativa

Papaver-nudicaule photographyPapaver Nudicaule

Russian-River-Oak photographyRussian River Oak

Populus tremuloides photographyPopulus Tremuloides

  • paul rains

    love the depth and unique quality of the images, your process is very intriguing
    but if you could change your subject matter away from the banal and contrived plant imagery i think you have a huge opportunity to go beyond what appears to be nothing more than a print someone hangs on the wall above the toilet. sorry to be so harsh but you really have found something, hate to see you not push the subject matter as much as you’ve pushed the medium. you’ve contradicted yourself.

  • well I disagree with paul rains about the subject matter, plants are fascinating photographically, intimately connected to our daily existence, wildly diverse… Of course that doesn’t mean it’s easy to make impactful images of plants, and I think Robert Buelteman has done that.
    Wilfully decorative, these images are interesting.

    But the artist’s statement seems to come from a… different planet!
    Planet San Francisco!

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