Advanced Techniques and Process 2A – Painting with light research

Painting with light has be photographed since the 1889;  ‘Étienne-Jules Marey and Georges Demeny who developed several  photographic techniques to study the movements of everything’ – specifically humans and animals

‘In 1889 Demeny attached incandescent bulbs to the joints of an assistant and created the first known light painting photograph “Pathological Walk From in Front’.

Moving in to the 1900’s in 1914 Frank Gilbreth and his wife also developed photographs by using small lights and the open shutter of the camera to track motion of manufacturing and clerical workers therefore this was not an artistic creation.

“The first artist to explore the technique of light painting was Man Ray.” He was an artist who created a series of work ‘space writing’ by taking self portraits whilst painting with light. ‘He opened the shutter of his camera and used a small penlight to create a series of swirls and lines in the air’. However in 2009 photographer Helen Carey discovered it wasn’t random drawings it was his signature.

Between 1930-1940s a self-taught photographer Gjon Mili appeared using photoflash photography. He transformed painting with light.

‘Gjon used stroboscopic light to capture the motion of everything from dancers to jugglers in a single exposure. His photoflash techniques are still very much used today in light painting photography.’

‘Mili’s creation of photoflash photography work was just his first gift to the light painting world. In the 1940’s Gjon attached small lights to the boots of ice skaters he then opened the shutter of his camera and created what would be the inspiration for some of the most famous light painting images ever created.’

In 1949 Picaso was photographed by Gjon for Life Magazine, Gjon inspired Piscaso who then went on to create a series of his own light images ‘Pablo Picasso’s light drawings’

‘While there Mili showed Picasso some of his light painting photographs of the figure skaters. Pablo was immediately inspired, Picasso took a penlight and began to draw in the air’

Light photography was photographed over the next 20 years but in 1979 took a different twist by photographerEric Staller and his ‘light graffiti’ he was an architect who created art and began photographing the streets.

 ‘Eric’s “Light Drawings” series could be the very first Light Art Performance Photographs ever created. It could be argued that Man Ray’s “Space Writing” series were the first light art performance pieces but there is no doubt that Staller’s images such as Light Tubes, Happy Street, and Technicolor Torsos all evoke elements of performance art. Eric’s “Light Drawings” series is one of the most influential series on light painters today.’

other photographers –

  • Dean Chamberlain
  • Josef Zeldak
  • John Hesketh
  • Tokihiro Sato
  • Trever Williams
  • Guilhem Nicolas

Research Sources of above references + information;



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Olivia Bates

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