Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.


Oct 04, 2019 - Elizabeth Hibbard

Iodine is an element on the periodic table, which gives it some sort of alchemical symbolic weight in my mind. The process by which is converts from a solid to a gas is called sublimation. 

As in, Sublime.

I found myself rewatching Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film, Stalker, over and over last semester while considering how environmental destruction can be represented; how to talk about this liminal place of fear by maybe by indulging in Tarkovsky’s post-nuclear vision of the misanthropocene.

The sepia world reminds me a lot of the color of the iodine solution I’ve been working with, a sterilized world outside the zone. 

In trying to start researching iodine and where it comes from, how we obtain it from the earth, I found my first point of complication. The brownish liquid that I think of as Iodine is technically tincture of iodine, usually only  a small percentage of elemental iodine, along with potassium iodide, dissolved in a mixture of alcohol and water. Iodine, alone, as an element, is of course that beautiful violet like in biology class when you make slides. I’d somehow made peace with the idea that iodine could both be ochre and violet in my subconscious this entire time. Purple and orange being opposite one another on the color wheel, they do feel perhaps like sides of a coin, one being the shadow of the other.

In 1982, 3 years after Tarkovsky released Stalker, The FDA approved the use administration of potassium iodide to protect thyroid glands from radioactive iodine in nuclear accidents. it works by essentially occupying space in the the thyroid before the radiation can, it fills the space to protect from something invisible invading your body and mutating it. 

After the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in April, 1986, potassium iodide was administered as a radiation protective agent to  17 million people. 

Tarkovsky, along with several members of his crew, later died relatively young from a rare form of lung cancer. A hypothesis is that the location exposed them to radiation poisoning due to the shoot’s proximity to a toxic chemical plant.

This is often mis-relayed that they shot in proximity of the site of the Chenobryl Nuclear Disaster, and that radiation poisoning is what killed Tarkovsky. 

Stalker was shot in Chenobryl, but seven years before the disaster. 

When it is combined with silver nitrate, potassium iodide results in silver iodide, a highly photo-sensitive compound that serves as the basis of the magical properties of traditional analogue photography, a form of alchemy, the sublime.