The image above is printed with over half a million volts of electricity and forms part of my project Xero which brings xeroxing back to basics: electricity, toner powder and paper.
This is what static electricity looks like. The tendrils you see are called “Lichtenberg” figures, and each is utterly unique. Lots of factors affect their appearance — even the weather!
A high-voltage Van de Graaff generator is used to make a static electric field on a sheet of plastic, then it is dusted with toner powder, which is drawn to the electricity. I top it with a piece of paper, which is then run through a powerful press. The paper peels away and a hot iron “melts” the powder to it. It’s why photocopies are so warm when freshly printed.
I spent months building prototypes that just didn’t work, until finally I succeeded and it felt like it had all been worth it.
Luke Evans is an artist and photographer, based in Herefordshire, UK. His work explores the underlying mechanics of photography and the intersection of science and art.