I want to do some research into drawing with light. This arises out of a review of earlier work and selecting light motes as intriguing found drawings. It also plays into future Part 5 themes of drawings developed over time and my parallel project looking at absence/presence and traces.
There are various ways one might draw with light. Perhaps the most obvious is to make cyanotype prints using light sensitive paper on which an image can be made in several ways. Light can be excluded from the paper by stencils of various sorts, paper, thread, object, or the paper can be used in a pin hole camera to record traces of the sun or environment.
Alternatively, the path of a small, powerful light can be traced in a longer exposure photograph, as in Gjon Mili’s photographs for Time magazine, where he attached lights to a figure skater, or those he famously took of Picasso drawing in space (Page, 2017).
Another way of harnessing light might be to prick pinholes in a support, possibly in reference to some image on the support and back-light it so that small, selective highlights are created.
I wanted to see if I could capture the light motes in a more direct way than photographing them. I have some Jacquard Solarfast light sensitive dye left from a textile project a few years ago which could be pressed into service. I had no success with this on paper in the past but decided to have another go. The fluid was applied to paper in a darkened room. Not being sure how best to apply it, I started with a sponge roller but progressed to a sponge brush as the roller produced an uneven orange peel effect. I chose a very bright day and set up an exposure bench outside with a cutting mat, a sheet of glass and my reflective object, a copper kettle.
My initial exposures produced solid blue sheets. I had thought that a long exposure would be necessary, but quickly realised that the background light was burning out any image and that the copper light motes were not very bright. A large card board box was positioned to shade the paper whilst allowing the light motes to be reflected back on to the paper. An exposure time of about 2 minutes allowed the light motes to be exposed before the whole paper was completely exposed and the marks were lost. However, only the strongest are captured and the delicacy and extent of the whole is not recorded.
Perhaps I could produce a better image by using a uv light source in a darkened room with stronger light motes produced by cut glass. Unfortunately, this failed to develop at all, probably due to my led torch not producing enough uv. The dye only develops when wet, and the paper dried out before any development at this light level.
The glass light motes are much stronger than the copper, so I tried producing these with the sun as the light source. The light has to go through the glass rather than reflected back, so shading the paper was not possible, and you can’t project just the light mote.
Initial results were uninspiring, but I did get better at exposure, subject selection and dye application.
Old, heavily cut glass worked best at scattering the light. A flower bowl with internal holder probably produced the best image. All these glasses are really old and inherited it from my grandmother 40 years ago. This gives these pictograms added layers of trace and significance for me. They have a connection to Cornelia Parker’s images of glasses.
I did manage to record some light motes but I would much rather not have recorded the glass objects producing them. The light motes have a mysterious beauty about them which is negated by showing the objects. Since the light has been concentrated, rather than excluded, by the subjects, these images will always be low contrast.
This has been an interesting piece of research for a very sunny day. If I want to pursue it further, I think I have to invest in proper cyanotype chemicals and be able to expose dry paper using a focused light source.
Jason D Page. 2017. Light Painting Photography History. [ONLINE] Available at: http://lightpaintingphotography.com/light-painting-history/. [Accessed 8 July 2017].