The Making of Viscosity

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The Making of Viscosity

I completed this series as part of my final-year folio while studying a Bachelor of Arts in Photography at RMIT University, the series went through several different revisions before arriving at the final concept used in these images. To explain the conceptual side of things, here’s the statement I wrote for the assessment:

“Viscosity aims to illustrate the unseen world of transient events in the behaviour of fluids; in this case, that of acrylic paints. The project came about as part of a larger study that was refined down to the concept seen in these seven prints. Here, common kitchen utensils and paints of varying colour and thickness were combined to create interesting shapes and forms that exist for a mere fraction of a second.”




Now on to the technical stuff. First off, the images are a two-part composite with top and bottom sections of the utensil shot separately. This allowed me to attach or adapt each utensil to a cordless drill to achieve the motion I wanted to spin the paint and simply replace the handle later on in post. Different coloured paints were used to achieve each image, each having a different viscosity to add further variation to each image (thinner paints break up into smaller pieces, thicker ones tend to form long ribbons).

As one of my former lecturers can attest (I may be responsible for some paint on the ceiling of one of the studios), paint is a messy subject to work with. To keep the mess down to a minimum, I bought a 50L plastic storage container from a hardware store to catch the paint as it was spun off of the utensils. A hole was cut into the lid of the tub and used to suspend the utensil inside the container. I then cut a port at one end for the camera, using a sheet of plexiglass as a splatter guard and a second port on the side that was covered with tracing paper to act as a disposable diffuser for the main light source. Black paper was used behind the subject as a background that could be quickly switched out once it became too dirty.

Lighting/Setup Diagram (credit to

Lighting/Setup Diagram
(credit to

Lighting was pretty straight forward; a single Nikon SB-900 Speedlight to camera-left, shot through the diffusion panel. I opted to use a Speedlight in order to gain a shorter flash duration at the cost of power, but at this small a scale power was not a concern. I experimented with more complex setups but I found one light plus a reflector gave me a good mix of detail and shadow which helped to give a better perception of depth to the paint. Further reflectors were used to add detail to the chrome parts of the utensils.

The original series comprised of seven images based off of a colour wheel (red, orange, yellow, and so on…) with an additional image shot using metallic silver paint shot later on. The initial seven were presented as A2-sized inkjet prints made on a Epson R4880 using Ilford GALLERIE Prestige paper but I might look at doing more larger prints later on or expanding the series in future.

The full series is now up under the projects header: