Light experimentations

I decided to research different artists who have dealt with light-painting photography, developing intriguing outcomes and eyecatching compositions. First I had a look at three different, early photographers: I did this to broaden my understanding of the field, as well as developing more of a historical context.

Étienne-Jules Marey and Georges Demeny, 1889



Étienne-Jules Marey and Georges Demeny developed several photographic techniques to study the movement, in 1889.Demeny connected many incandescent bulbs to the joints of an assistant, creating the first light-painting photograph in 1889 . It was called, Pathological Walk From in Front. This photograph represents the differentiation between movement and stillness. The way in which this photograph has been taken, through the use of a slower shutter speed, Étienne-Jules Marey and Georges Demeny have created an unrealistic depiction of how movement looks in live motion; this caused by the distortion of the assistant’s pathway. This photograph is in black and white, yet the tones contrast drastically, making the white figure and light movement, stand out in the foreground, against the dark background. The movement of the assistant has created repeated shape and line across the photograph, allowing the viewer’s eyes to move over the picture in a waved motion. The ease created by these lines is significant because, it captures the actual ease of movement from the assistant. Repetitive geometric shape has been captured in this photograph, through the movement of the assistant where rectilinear and curvilinear shapes are apparent. This photograph gives more of an abstract feel as, Étienne-Jules Marey and Georges Demeny have focused more on emphasising the formal elements of line, shape and form. As a result of this,  the viewer’s understanding of the piece is altered as the gap between reality and devised invention has been decreased.

Frank Gilbreth, 1914


                    Cyclegraph by Frank Gilbreth         Work Simplification Study by Frank Gilbreth

Frank Gilbreth used small lights and a slow shutter speed to capture different workers who were in the manufacturing field, creating an unique portrayal of their movement and emotion in 1914. Gilbreth was attempting to study a method of work simplification, rather than having an intention to create an art piece; yet, the motion captured in these photographs has created organic shape, whereas these images are part of a documentary photographic series. I really like the use of focus in these pieces, as the stationary elements of the photograph are in the sharpest focus, combined with the movement of the subject being out of focus. This technique really captures the movement and makes the pieces realistic and interesting. The simplicity of both photographs is enhanced by the repetitve light painting. The strongest element I feel is captured in both photographs is light; the subjects have become the focus of the piece through the strong highlights, rather than their interactions with the work they have to do. The black and white creates a sharp contrast and harsh shadows, enhanced by the artificial light; the value of these tones are the lightest values in the center of the photographs, evoking a focal point.

Man Ray, 1935


                            Space Writing by Light Painter Man Ray       Space Writing by Light Painter Man Ray

 Man Ray  created a light-painting photographic series “Space Writing” in 1935. Man Ray set up a camera to produce a self-portrait and used a penlight to draw a variety of curvilinear lines in front of the camera. The element which I favour, is how Man Ray’s face is out of focus, contrasting against the lines he has painted with the penlight.

After covering the history of Light-painting photography, I researched two specific artists, whom I have interest in.

Brian Hart


Light painting artist Brian Hart has developed an unique style of light line work. Hart’s exposures last for 20 minutes or more in which he intricately traces every detail of a scene in which technically complex images are  produced.


 Janne Parviainen


Parviainen is well known for his light painting figures producing some amazing skeleton imagery. Urban exploration provides him with inspiration.

My experimentations


I decided to experiment with different photographers techniques. I decided to experiment with a flash and a long 30 second exposure. This experimentation created light trails. At first, I played around with the flash from my phone, moving the light around to create shapes in the dark. I took these pictures with my camera on my tripod in total darkness. I liked the way the light shapes stayed in the shot even though I moved the flash around.

These three images I decided to incorporate myself and my brother into the shot. I clicked the camera and quickly ran into the frame and flashed the light beneath our faces. This allowed a series of our faces to be seen in the shot. I really like some of these outcomes. I have further developed my experimentation with long exposure photography.


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