“Photography As ART” script shows how James creates his art using only light, camera, and optics, in addition to considerable logistical planning, technical experimentation, patience and dedication.
Photography as ART – FADE IN: EXT – SUN IN SKY – DAY
The sun framed bright white radiating ball. Slowly zoom out to encompass the living city of Miami. MUSIC – fade in crescendo from Scene 1 – Das Rheingold by Wagner and fade it out.
Light brings life to everything, including photography. The two part Greek root meaning of the word “photo-” and “-graphia” translates to “painting with light.” Recording with photography is easy enough, especially in the new digital age, and with skillful talent photographs can be made artistically. They can be viewed as artistic photography, but can’t be defined as Fine Art Photography.
Like a painter, brushes and palette in hand, begins with a blank canvas, and a sculptor, with hammer and chisel, begins to shape rough stone, a fine art photographer starts with an empty piece of film or digital file to create art by a controlling the exposure to light of every element included in the photograph.
Photography as ART – CUT TO: INT – TOTAL DARKNESS – ANYTIME
Interior Studio is in total darkness and SILENCE. Slowly bring up stark lighting on JAMES.
In photography the creative process of making fine art begins with a black canvas that is either chemically, as on film, or electronically, as with a digital file, that are sensitive to light.
From this starting point photographic art can be created by the manipulation of light, the control through optics, the versatility of the camera, and intricate staging.
Fade to black to match the dialogue ending with “total darkness.”
I will present samples of photography as art by each and all of these creative techniques, but let me begin with a literal example of “painting with light” that can only begin with total darkness.
Photography as ART – CUT TO: INT – AURORA INVERSION – ANYTIME
The Studio is completely darkened. A DRUMROLL quickly increases in intensity. Suddenly with the striking of CYMBALS the full framed Aurora Inversion (PHOTO) is switched on, followed by quick visual cuts around the piece.
You are looking at a work of photographic art called “Aurora Inversion” from the series Aurora wEos. They represent the most literal visual representation of the Greek roots forming the word photography.
I had a pre-visualized idea in mind of what I wanted to create. It had been formulating in my head for many years. I figured if I attached to one of my existing studio lights a fiber optic cable, with a focusing lens attached at the other end, I could paint light with it. This painting would have to be done in total darkness.
Photography as ART – CUT TO: INT – STUDIO – DAYTIME
Image 1 showing the camera on fixed in position to beams on the Studio ceiling.
Before turning the lights off the set for creating the Aurora’s had to be prepared. I began by attaching a camera mounting arm to a ceiling beam so my camera would over the center of the Studio shooting floor.
Image 2 shows a constructed box with a controller in the center.
I constructed a box that is centered under the camera. To provide a comfortable backdrop for my Aurora muse it is filled with packing material. I placed a TV controller temporarily at the center of the box to use as a focus setting point.
Image 3 shows the paintbrush wand to allow the painting with light.
The essential part to making painting with light possible was making the making the photo paintbrush. It was an idea that came to me many years earlier when fiber optics was first introduced and novelty lights were the craze, and I thought “I could buy a fiber optic cable, place a focusing lens on one end and attach it to one of my existing lights as the primary light source.
I ordered the cable and spot lens from a scientific supplier and figured out a way using plumbing supplies to attach it the front lens of one of my strobes, using its 250W modeling lamp as the source light. I even (humorous tone) used the wood extension from a plunger to stiffen the flexible fiber cable. I taped the two together as you can see, and in this way maintained control over my painting technique.
You will also note the black aluminum foil surrounding the strobe, which mostly eliminated any superfluous light from the sides, but not chocking the strobe to cause overheating. Remember the success of this creative process required total control of light in complete darkness.
Image 4 shows the Aurora Muse (model) in the box.
I now asked my Muse, Karen, to lie in the box. She is taking one of over a half dozen positioned I photographed for this series.
Image 5 shows the color gels used as the colors to paint with…
On the light table you can see the sample of colors I laid out to use. I actually most often used only four colors for each set up; an amber, red, green, and blue.
This project, like many I do, required experimentation to determine the best techniques, settings and exposures. For instance, various colors transmit at different speeds set by time.
They all required a counted time of usage. Amber transmits quickly so a 1001 to 1050 count is all that could be given to avoid washing out the results. Green, on the other hand, transmits slowly and required a much longer count to register. Other colors fall in between for transmission time.
Image 6 shows the results of the process.
This is an un-cropped example showing a painted Aurora. I painted each one I made in two ways, either with crisscross or circular strokes. As I painted different positions, the resulting outcomes were always uniquely different, and along the way little secrets that embellished the technique were revealed. To complete this one took a about a 30 minute exposure.
Image 7 shows the set-up for the Vitruvian Angel Aurora.
The most complicated Aurora required a 45 minute exposure to create. I called it my “Vitruvian Angel” as it was my playful version of Leonardo de Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” using my photographic technique. The added challenge making this one is that the arms and legs had to be successfully exposed in two positions…
I made arm and leg cut-outs to prevent those areas from being exposed during my light painting of the muse’s extremities in her initial pose. After this I moved the arms and legs to those positions and removed the cut out materials.
A set-up photo suggests that the cut-out material I used was black, following the principle that black equals what is not exposed. I first tried the black arm and leg cut-outs…
Image 8 shows the arm and leg cut-outs in black and grey.
…but in my tests that did not work out the best as the slight bit of ambient light that I could not eliminate exposed it so it would show in the final photograph. I tried a deep tan, but found a grey did the trick.
Image 9 shows a final version of the Vitruvian Angel Aurora.
In the end I created several versions of the Vitruvian Angel.
This encapsulates the story of how the Aurora w/Eos photographs were created. People find the process fascinating, especially since photography, offering the highest degree of collaboration between art and science, is seldom experienced at this level.
More images of photography relating to this series or like constructed works.
Exploring the outer limits of photography is an alluring aspect of my work, but there are other motivating forces surrounding my creations, which lead to more compelling insights of “Photography as Art.”
It begins with a “pre-visualization” that for the Aurora series I have already described, but for a photographic artist it’s one thing to have an idea and another to have all the pieces of the process in place to execute it. [This is unlike a painter who can put a blank canvas on an easel and with palette in hand can immediately come to realize an idea.]
In the meantime, if gathering the pieces takes three weeks or in this case a dozen years, the creative urges within me are similar to the convulsions of the Alien, like in the movie by that name, demanding to burst out, birthing my creations. It has nothing to do with outside influences, or fame or fortune, it all comes from within.
I came to calling the pieces of this group the “Aurora wEos” series, as in part Auroras are colorful displays created in our atmosphere by the interaction of electrons with oxygen and nitrogen, and because in Roman mythology Aurora is the goddess that flies across the sky announcing the morning, and equivalent to Eos in Greek mythology where she is depicted as a beautiful woman, which you will always find in my artwork.
THE END of Scene One
Read next: The Cabaret Series – Scene 2