Photographer Shocks Film with Static Electricity to Create Powerful Self-Portraits

Creative Photography by Kate Miller-Wilson

By using an unconventional technique, photographer Kate Miller-Wilson has produced a poignant self-portrait series that explores her struggle with anxiety. Shocking large format film with static electricity, she creates random points of light on the photographs and, at the same time, mimics the unpredictable nature of anxiety.

As the mother of an autistic child and someone who has suffered from anxiety her entire life, Miller-Wilson uses her photography as a way to shut out the stresses of the world. Now, with Static, she's harnessed these feelings into a visual expression and in doing so, hopes to empower more creatives to take risks.

The initial concept for Static came about when Miller-Wilson saw a photograph with an accidental static electricity mark and was intrigued by how she could harness this into something artistic.

“I know static can wreck a great film photo, but I also saw potential there,” the photographer tells My Modern Met. “Possibly, static could show emotion or make the unseen visible in a photo.  Static is unpredictable, and I knew that if I could find a way to use it with portraits, it could offer some magic or express nuanced things it might otherwise be difficult to show.”

Fine Art Photography by Kate Miller-Wilson

Through trial and error, Miller-Wilson executed the stunning series of self-portraits. The process was not without difficulty, both due to the uncontrollable nature of static electricity, as well as the inherent complexities of self-portrait photography. Several shots were lost to static marks in the wrong part of the frame or marks so bright that they obliterated the entire photo. However, Miller-Wilson's perseverance paid off, as she was eventually able to produce some incredible double exposures that are emotionally impactful.

The risk-taking series allows Miller-Wilson to confront her personal anxieties, while also pushing her creative limits. She hopes that others will be encouraged to do the same after viewing the work. “Once you get to the point in your craft where you know the rules and know how to create a good photo, it's time to take a big step outside that proverbial box.  Make some really bad photos. Wreck some perfectly good film. Film can be expensive, but it's not precious or holy. It's just a brush we use to paint with light. The real risk is the emotional one we take when we know we might fail.”

These powerful self-portraits used static electricity to express feelings of anxiety.

Experimental Portrait Photography

Creative Photography by Kate Miller-Wilson

Experimental Photography by Kate Miller-Wilson

Artistic Photography by Kate Miller-Wilson

Static Electricity in Photography

Static by Kate Miller-Wilson

Experimental Self-Portrait Photography

Static by Kate Miller-Wilson

Experimental Self-Portrait Photography

Kate Miller-Wilson: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Kate Miller-Wilson.

Related Articles:

New Photography Technique Reflects Themes of Anxiety

Photographer Explores Her Own Anxiety Disorder Through Haunting Self-Portraits

Photographer Reveals How She Captured Surreal “Butterflies in My Stomach” Self-Portrait

Interview: Photographer Explores Own Depression with Surreal Self-Portraits

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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