Photography As ART

“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

Photography as ART – Aurora wEos series – Scene 1

April 30 2017 - Photography As ART



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.

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.

A painter, with brushes and palette in hand, begins creatively expressing on a blank canvas; a sculptor, using hammer and chisel, will begin to shape rough stone. Likewise, my philosophy is that in order for a photographer to create and call it “photography as art, the artist in essence must create on a single blank piece of film or file until the shutter is pressed, by a controlling the exposure to light of every element included in the photograph.   


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 an idea to be expressed and black canvas that is 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.

I’d like to show you 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,” which can only begin with total darkness.

FADE TO: Total darkness


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. This Series represents 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 connected to one of my studio lights a fiber optic cable, and attached at the other end a focusing lens attached at the other end, I should be able to paint with light.


Image 1 showing the camera on fixed in position to beams on the Studio ceiling. #1 Body Parts set up-8


This painting would have to be done in total darkness, but 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.
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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.

#3 L1020331JAMES:

The essential part to making painting with light possible was making the making the photo paintbrush. As I mentioned earlier it came to me years earlier when fiber optics was first introduced, and novelty fiber lamps were the craze.

I ordered a fiber optic cable and focusing spot lens from a scientific supplier, Edmund Scientific actually. Then figured out a way, using plumbing supplies, to attach it the front lens of one of my strobes. I would use its 250W modeling lamp as the source light… 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 could maintain control over my painting technique.

…Also notice the black aluminum foil surrounding the strobe. This mostly eliminated any superfluous light from the sides, without chocking the strobe to overheat. Keep in mind, the success of this creative process required total control of light in complete darkness.

Image 4 shows the Aurora Muse (model) in the box.
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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…

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On the light table you can see the sample of colors I laid out to use… most often using 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 light at different speeds, so I had to determine the exposure times.

With the shutter open, I would count out the required time of usage. For amber, transmitting quickly, painting from a 1001 to 1050 count would do… and 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 times to paint successfully.  

Image 6 shows the results of the process.

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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. Along the way, little secrets that embellished the technique, were revealed, but they’re secrets! To complete making this one took about a 30 minute exposure.

Image 7 shows the set-up for the Vitruvian Angel Aurora.

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The most complicated Aurora, using my photographic technique, required a 45-minute exposure to create. It is called the “Vitruvian Angel”; my take on Leonardo de Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man,” which illustrates the symmetrical

harmony of proportions, the connections between art and science, man and nature, and for me women and nature.

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 can’t be exposed. I first tried the black arm and leg cut-outs…

Image 8 shows the arm and leg cut-outs in black and grey.

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…but in my tests, this did not work out the best. I was unable eliminate 100% ambient light, and that little bit of exposure would show the black cut-outs 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.
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In the end I created several versions of the Vitruvian Angel.

This is an abbreviated story of how the Aurora w/Eos photographs were created, based on the literal meaning of photography, and showing the medium as a collaboration between art and science. It is seldom experienced at this level, and after they hear about the process, people find the process fascinating.

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 then there are other motivating forces surrounding my creations, which lead to other compelling insights of “Photography as Art.”

It begins with a “pre-visualization” that for the Aurora series I have already described, but unlike a painter who can put a blank canvas on an easel and with palette & brush in hand can immediately come to realize an idea, a photographic artist with an idea, and then have all the pieces of the process in place to execute it.

In the meantime, if gathering the pieces takes three weeks or in this case a dozen years, the creative photographic urges within me are similar to the convulsions of the “Alien,” in the movie by that name, thumping from within my chest and abdomen, eating at me, demanding to burst out, to birth my visual conceptions. The process has nothing to do with outside influences, persuasions, objectives, fame or fortune. It is all to satisfy, put an end to the appetite, to tame that creative beast within, knowing its satisfaction, its lull, is only temporary…

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 OneAurora wEos Dp3_2148 print 8-10

Aurora Inversion

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