The only source of light is the one in my hand.” This is something i’ve been saying for years now, and it really defines what this project is about. On a technical point of view, I simply traded traditional photo studio lighting equipment (strobes, softboxes, stands, umbrellas) for a flashlight. In this case I use a long tube, focus on a point on the models back, and rotate my wrist to create a perfect circle. I begin and end behind one leg so that no gap is shown.
I draw the light by hand and most of the time, it is for no more than one second. That’s how I acheive crisp results. I work with dancers and circus acrobats because they’re able to stand extremely still for long periods of time while I do my work.
Over the years, i’ve made many trips to the dollar store to get shinny, reflective, colored accessories to put on the top of my flashlight to get fancy patterns and colors. Anything can work: a gift bag, a postcard, a balloon and even a rainbow flip-flop. It’s a very simple technique but requires a lot of precision, practice, and nights of trial and error to get good results.
What’s really cool about it is that it doesn’t require very much equipment, so it’s easy to carry around and experiment in various environments. It’s not about gear, it’s not about the newest or fanciest technology available. It’s about you, the camera, and some light.
In this image, you can see my “shadow” in the background. It’s totally by accident, but we liked the “ghost” effect in the end. Sometimes, that’s the great thing about making mistakes in the first place.
I shoot mostly with contemporary dancers and circus artists. They are the best as I ask them to stay perfectly still for one second, and most of them are very strong, stable and able to focus for a long period of time. But above their physical and mental qualities, they are simply the kind of people I like to be with. I learn a lot from them, and we have had so many profound moments in my pitch black studio.
This is a video of the above image. Making it required 32 cameras in a circle firing simultaneously. We do this in my studio in Montreal and it’s called “Bullet-Time.” The result is 5k quality and 360 degree coverage:
I started creating light-painting exactly 3 years ago. At that time, I was obsessed with creating stop-motion mixing light-painting and dancers. It took me a while, but I finally figured out a way to do it using a very strong led light. It allowed me to do very short exposures to ensure we could keep a fast beat through the creation of a stop-motion animation.
Obviously this is the direction my art took, both inside and outside of my studio — playing with light and dancers and motion. The last three years have been a journey literally and figuratively — from Montreal to San Fransisco to Dubai to South America to and I can’t wait to see where we go next.
My advice is this: once you find your way — something that you enjoy more than anything — stick to it and practice like crazy.