Take a piece of photographic paper out of its box, expose it to light, and it will start to change.
In the controlled space of the darkroom, this photo-chemical reaction is halted, unstable compounds are washed away, and the remaining surface becomes the end result.
But Lisa Benson doesn't want the process to stop. She is interested in what happens to the paper's coated surface as the sensitive molecules are bombarded with photons.
She calls her photographic paper "disappearing drawings". They record the initial exposure to the light at a particular place at a particular time, the way the sheaf of papers overlapped, and any accidents along the way.
Each time they are viewed, they change further.
"The drawings gather more and more time until they 'unlight' themselves. It puts an interesting onus on the viewer, because you have to take responsibility on how long they last," she says.
Benson digitally scans the paper, fixing the shades and forms. These scans are the product that end up on gallery walls.
Benson studied painting and photography at the Waikato Institute of Technology's Media Arts centre in Hamilton, where she now teaches.
"I thought that photography would get me but I was absolutely romanced by painting," Benson says.
For her masters, Benson crossed the Tasman six years ago to study at the Melbourne Institute of Technology with David Thomas, whose work explores notions of time and its effects.
"That pushed me into installations and performance, looking at how work is encountered in the world, the way work changes through the act of viewing," she says.
"A lot of what I do at the moment is about light and time and mass, and how those things activate space."
Drift features the results of a trip last month to three iconic locations in the South Island. The disappearing drawings were first exposed to light at Lake Grassmere, where the evaporating sea leaves behind drifts of salt.
At Mt John Observatory near Lake Tekapo, Benson attached five pinhole cameras to the tracking machinery, and pointed them to stars where astronomers believe there may be earth-like planets.
"That is very old light," she says. "They thought I was crazy, putting my cardboard boxes on their gear."
She then took her pinhole cameras to the Chancellor Dome on Fox Glacier, getting clear images of the snowfields in the full moon with a 20-minute exposure.
"All the ideas I am dealing with are ones I sit and mull over and shuffle around in my studio, so all that research occurs before, so it is about doing things at a very fast pace in the field," Benson says.
"It is a lot about timing. When I went down there were storms coming. I was in Tekapo for five days, and the day after I left they had a massive amount of snow.
"There is something too about going to these kinds of sites that are isolated, that are places in our imagination."
For her antecedents, Benson doesn't look to photographers like Man Ray, who used various masking techniques to create images on photographic paper, but to Kasimir Malevich, who established the importance of the idea over the material object which is the key to abstractionism.
"Malevich is a key thinker in the way I do this kind of painting, not in its formal elements but what it's trying to do in its placement in time."
* Drift, by Lisa Benson is at the Vavasour Godkin gallery, 35 High St, until Aug 12By Adam Gifford Email Adam