Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Light Art Performance Photography (LAPP) or commonly called LightPainting. Close relationships between light, movement and photography.

Recently, and due to the importance of technological advances in light emitters, we see an old photographic technique that progressively has been transforming few years ago a new trend into a new way for amateurs to play and experiment with it. I'm talking about the commonly known and bad defined "Light Graffiiti" or "Light Painting". First of all, we have to consider some standard definitions I've found in the cloud sources.

Photography: Modern word derived from the Greek photos- for “light and –grafos for “drawing”.

Light Painting: is a photographic technique in which exposures are made by moving a hand-held light source or by moving the camera.

According to this definition, the unique elements that converts “Light Painting” as a unique technique in photography is first of all the fact of movement, but second , and more specifically, the use of a light source as a differentiating element.

One of its features is surprisely that it’s really opposite to the fact that photography is static by definition. It captures actions in specific moments and represents them in a static support. The the main key features are the capability to capture an infinite set of different movements, parameters and actions of a light source (natural or artificial one) that takes place in front of the camera lens, and modifying the shutter speed parameter to low we can get a representation of tall these actions gathered in the same “couché” support or digital image. Briefly , this technique requires always movement and captures exactly the transport of photons along the light movement sequence that we have previously planned. What is really important here is the path photons left in the context or scene we had previously prepared. Experimentation changing the parameters is frequently required to have the expected results.

Light Painting Photography can be traced back to the year 1914 when Frank Gilbreth, along with his wife Lillian Moller Gilbreth, used small lights and the open shutter of a camera to track the motion of manufacturing and clerical workers. Measuring work  movements to improve productivity was one of the starting points for this kind of art photography. Below, some images representing the worker's movements. 

Frank Gilbreth - Workers Movements Analyse

Frank Gilbreth - Workers Movements Analyse

Frank Gilbreth - Workers Movements Analyse

Man Ray, in his 1935 series "Space Writing," was the first known art photographer to use the technique and Barbara Morgan began making light paintings in 1940.

Space writing by Light Painter - Man Ray

Barbara Morgan, 1940 - "Pure Energy and Neurotic Man"

Gjon Milli (Albania 1904 – New York 1984), was really the precursor of this technique but used from an artistic point of view. This MIT engineer graduate, was one of the first in use the electronic flash and the stroboscopic instruments –normally used to analyze sequences of quick movements with flashlights- into the artistic photography. He started his works as a freelance photographer some years after he arrived to New York. In 1939 he started to work as a LIFE Magazine photographer, position he held until his death in 1984, publishing his works on the main covers. Over the years he travelled around the world to photograph celebrities, artists, sport events, concerts, sculptures, etc. 

Gjon Milli for LIFE Magazine

Gjon Milli for LIFE Magazine

One of the works that best defines the firsts “light Painting” photography as art was the tandem he created with Pablo Picasso. The LIFE Mag assignment was to photograph the artist in his Riviera studio. Gjon showed the artist some of his photographs of ice skaters with tiny lights affixed to their skates jumping in the dark–and Picasso’s mind began to race. The series of photographs–Picasso’s light drawings–were made with a small flashlight in a dark room; the images vanished almost as soon as they were created.

Gjon Milli for LIFE Magazine - Picasso in his Studio

Gjon Milli for LIFE Magazine - Picasso in his Studio

Gjon Milli for LIFE Magazine - Picasso in his Studio

Gjon Milli for LIFE Magazine - Picasso in his Studio

Leaving the origins, and exploring today's evolution in photography and light,  you'll certainly be amazed with the next "Light Painting" related story. What really made me scream and start this article was the fact of founding in one of this new funding web-based platform for different projects, one called PixelStick. Apparently this guys are looking for some money to develop his product. This is the product description seen in the funding webpage, and I quote:

Pixelstick reads images created in Photoshop (or the image editor of your choice) and displays them one line at a time, creating endless possibilities for abstract and/or photorealistic art. Taking this one step further, Pixelstick can increment through a series of images over multiple exposures, opening up light painting to the world of timelapse, and allowing for animations the likes of which have never before seen. Pixelstick consists of 198 full color RGB LEDs inside lightweight aluminum housing. Pixelstick’s brain, a small mounted box, reads images from an SD card and displays them, one line at a time. Each LED corresponds to a single pixel in the image. The images themselves can be from 1 to 198 pixels tall and many thousands of pixels wide. The handle is perpendicular and has a secondary aluminum sleeve, allowing pixelstick to spin freely. Pixelstick uses 8 AA batteries. Throughout testing we’ve used Sanyo Eneloop and Amazon rechargeable to great success, never requiring more than one set for a long night’s shooting.”

You can see the video here.

If we are looking in this platform for a project related to the word “lighting”, we can get easily about 1400 different projects. This is one of 1400. Well, what really petrifies me is that the authors requested initially for the development and industrialization what I consider a tipical “gadget” 110.000 $. Well, the question is: Which has been the investor’s answer when still 20 days to go? The answer is that incredibily they have collected 478.941 $. 435 % more than they requested. Wow! Words speak for themselves. The formule isn't that obvious. The innovation recipe is that they created a product that follow the current context (photography democratization) , thet used the advantages of technological progress (affordable new light emitters -LED’s-) , the personalization (through combining different technologies in one) , and the aim of design an object  for fun / hobby (in our free time and specially at night). Bravo! Honestly, I should say that I never imagined that light had many fans, but certainly yes: 1.679 project investors. See here some pictures of what this dispositive is capable of:

Object system

Some captures playing with the gadget

Funny patterns we can do

We can place Graffiti wherever we want without legal issues
With some creativity we can create animated GIF's

Coming back to the main theme, and looking trough the possibilities of this art,  I think that “Light Painting” is a bad definition of what the technique offers, on the one hand because we are always forced to specify the photographic context to cause a misunderstanding. Otherwise we can confuse this technique with the action of paint with light as we saw in the past article "Light Vs Pigment"  when I mentioned James Turrell artworks. On the other hand because as I said before, the term Photography in itself takes already in consideration the words “light” and “drawing” as its own meaning like two different and necessary parameters to realize a photography. This will produce a redundant definition.

Some other people call it “Graffiti Light”, term which maybe could be representative by parameters like his characteristic speedy action, and the characteristic light strokes in some pictures, but LAPP (Light Art Performance Photography) is the word I would keep because it requires thinking in an action, a performance to develop in a determinate time and place. The authors say that the main difference from other photographic forms like “light painting” or “light writing” is the inclusion of the background in the photo and the importance it takes, but I think the meaning of LAPP is wider than including a background as a main feature. 

In March 2007, Jan Leonardo Wöllert developed and named the art. Six months later, in collaboration with Jörg Miedza, he founded the project that further developed the technique. In 2011, the pair separated. LAPP has grown internationally since its inception. 

I leave you wit some images of them until the next release. Enjoy them by separate in their respective websites or together.

Jan Leonardo Wöllert Jörg Miedza

Jan Leonardo Wöllert Jörg Miedza

P.D: Sorry for all artists that currently are working in this way for not include them in this short vision. Feel free to contact me for any comment or suggestion.