Painting with Light (Assignment Submission)

The brief for this assignment was to take a photograph of a person. The photograph was to be taken in a dark space, either at night or in a space that could be blacked out completely. When taking the photograph a torch or some other light source was to be used to ‘brush’ light over the person.

Prior to undertaking the exercise the work of Annette Messeger and Wolfgang Tillmans needed to be researched. The results of that research can be found here. My initial thoughts on the exercise and some initial experiments are documented here.

The photos were taken in my living room late at night. The room has blackout curtains so it’s possible to make it completely dark, the only lighting being from the LEDs on things like the Sky box and stereo system.

To hide some of this light leakage I put up the framework from a small studio kit that my family bought me with a black backdrop attached to it. My partner was then positioned sitting in front of this so that I could take photos and use some small torches to paint light on her.

Exposure times used were 15 seconds, 30 seconds and approximately 1 minute (using the bulb setting on the camera and the highly technical and accurate mechanism of counting to 60 in my head). Photos were taken with the camera set to ISO-400 and f/5.6.

Two LED torches and a small pencil torch (the type used by doctors to check pupil response) were used as light sources. The light produced by these was adjusted using a 35mm film canister with a hole through it’s middle and a series of balloons (red, orange, yellow, green and blue in colour; and stretched over the end of one of the LED torches).

Photos were taken over two nights. The first night was predominantly head and body shots (the majority from the knees up). The second night was head and shoulder images.

When examining the resulting photos those where the subject had not been illuminated enough were discarded immediately, this included the shots where the green and blue balloons were used as these did not produce sufficient light. The images captured using the yellow balloon were also discarded as the light they produced was far too harsh and unflattering to the model.

This left the images involving white, red and orange light.

Having looked at the work of Messeger and Tillmans and how they had displayed their work I decided that I wasn’t going to opt for a straight line or grid presentation. Instead I decided to narrow the final selection of images down to five. These images would be cropped and resized to produce images approximately 6 by 6 inches in size. These would then be attached to a cube shaped object (I created a 6 by 6 cube out of cardboard and black sticky back plastic). Five of the images would then be attached to each of the sides that would be visible to anyone viewing it. The sixth side allowing for the cube to be placed on a surface or for a base to be added that would allow it to rotate.


The final selection of images, contact sheets for all of the images captured and the final presentation of the selected photos are shown below.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light-5837 - cropped and resized - 1024 pixels at 72 pixels per inch
LED torch through red balloon

Using a red ‘filter’ it was possible to just have the subject lit, details on the black backdrop being more difficult to discern than with white light. Some editing of this image was performed using the dodge/burn tool so that the seat blends into the background.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light-5846 - cropped and resized - 1024 pixels at 72 pixels per inch
LED torch through red balloon

A change of location and not using the black backdrop allows for objects in the background to be seen. As can be seen from the shadows the light was from the right hand side of the subject. This and the use of the dodge/burn tool has allowed for some smoothing of facial features. Something that my partner was keen on.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light-5847 - cropped and resized - 1024 pixels at 72 pixels per inch
LED torch with 35mm flim cannister covering the end

Using a much smaller light source it was possible to highlight a smaller amount of the model. From this image I can see that it would be possible to use this technique to highlight very specific parts of the model, for instance the head, hands and forearms, while leaving the rest dark or only faintly lit.

This image was edited to make the parts of the model that were illuminated more visible.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light-5881 - cropped and resized - 1024 pixels at 72 pixels per inch
Plain white light

The above image has been edited to darken the background to reduce detail that would distract from the model. Looking at the image closely one of the things I’ve noticed is the eyes. Sitting still for 30 seconds is hard but not impossible but when someone is shining light on you there has to be a tendency to follow the light with your eyes and looking at the iris of the eyes that has happened here. I do think the points of light in the eye make it more interesting though.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light-5889 - cropped and resized - 1024 pixels at 72 pixels per inch
LED torch with orange filter (balloon)

Part of the brief suggested that we get the model to move slowly so we can see what effect this has. Movement of the arms didn’t really register very well because of the particular light that was used.

An image that I’ve always been drawn to is that of Janus, the Roman God of beginnings, transitions, duality and endings, amongst other things, which is partly because of the duality of my own nature. This assignment gave me the chance to create my own “Janus”.

Duality is something I’d like to explore further within my photography and also use to help build up my skills. I’ve already got some ideas that I’d like to build on.

The images below show the final presentation format for the 5 photos using the homemade cube.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light -5901
Exhibition Arrangement 1
Assignment 2 - Painting with Light -5902
Exhibition Arrangement 2
Assignment 2 - Painting with Light -5903
Exhibition Arrangement 3

Below are the contact sheets for all of the images taken during the assignment.

Edited Images-1
Contact Sheet 1
Edited Images-2
Contact Sheet 2
Edited Images-3
Contact Sheet 3
Edited Images-4
Contact Sheet 4

5 thoughts on “Painting with Light (Assignment Submission)”

  1. I’ve enjoyed reading your assignment Jenna. Your version of Janus is just wonderful. I tried something similar a few months ago and failed miserably. It’s good to see how it’s meant to be done.

    The cube gallery is great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Its good to have actually managed to finish the assignment. It was never going to be one of my favourites. At least I can get on with part 3 of the course now, which as you can see from the amount I’ve posted I’ve been doing.
      One of the advantages of not being in work today.

      Liked by 2 people

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