The community of light painting is growing rapidly these days. In case your unfamiliar with light painting, it can be described as both a photographic technique as well as a form of art. By using a handheld light source and appropriate shutter speeds, a photographer will be able to capture the incredible movement of light.
If you are a light painting photography enthusiast, you probably have heard about people like Hannu Huhtamo, Janne Parviainen, LAPP-PRO, and Brian Matthew Hart. They have, indeed, genuinely embraced light painting photography. Yet they are not light painting pioneers. The top 10 most influential names in light painting photography have been identified below. The ten artists discussed are a mix of people who developed this art form, as well as modern famous light painting photographers who got inspiration from them.
- Frank Bunker Gilbreth
Gilbreth was an American engineer and author, known as an early advocate of scientific management. As early as 1914, Gilbreth conducted a monumental experiment: he used a small handheld light and a long shutter speed to record the actions of workers. He then analyzed the patterns that he created. Those original pictures were considered the first batch of light painting photos. Despite it not being Gilbreth’s intent, he is known as the ‘father of light painting’.
- Man Ray
Man Ray was an American visual artist, best known for his portrait photography. Ray said in an interview that he saw “photography and painting as one”. Instead of separating the two fields, light and photography were viewed as one in Ray’s eyes. In 1935, he used the light painting photography techniques, and created the series “Space Writing”. As an all-in-one light painting tool did not exist at the time, Ray used a small light and drew some swirls and loops in the air that were captured by his camera. His iconic works included a project entitled “rayographs”, where he was the first one to use a photographic technology now called the “light brush”.
- Barbara Morgan
Barbara Morgan was born in Buffalo Kansas in the 1990s. Morgan was known for using light painting to depict modern dancers. The movement and human energy was an underlying theme in her light painting projects. She described herself as a visual artist and is best known for being the first photographer to adopt light painting. Her photographs, paintings, and drawings were widely displayed in many exhibitions in California since 1920.
4. Gjon Mili
Gjon was an Albanian-American photographer, who was regarded as the pioneer in the movement of light painting photography. In the 1930s, he primarily focused on light painting tools and techniques. Gjon’s works have shaped the public’s understanding of the speed of light. In 1949, Gjon introduced Picasso to his light painting and light painting tools. Soon after this introduction, Picasso adopted the technique and created images in the air was a small flashlight in a dark room. The photos were taken then became known as Picasso’s “Light Drawing’s”.
- Andreas Feininger
An American photographer was noted for his dynamic black-and-white scenes of Manhattan. Andreas Feininger was born in Paris and educated in Germany; he became fascinated with photography when he was working on his architecture study. He enjoyed taking pictures of the building and the city skyline. In 1949, Andreas captured the fantastic slinky-like images of U.S. Navy helicopters during it took off into the air, and this was one of his iconic pieces.
- David Pott
Pott was an Australian photographer, who over his lifetime worked with various fashion and commercial photographers. His black and white documentary style photography was widely admired. Pott was also known as a camera painting artist and became well known in London for portraying the familiar London landmarks into swirling mandalas of color with light painting techniques.
- Dean Chamberlain
Born in Boston, Dean began his photographic career in 1967, and he has been known as ‘the father of light painting’ as he specializes in unique lighting effects and extended exposure times; he was the first one who used long shutter speed to produce light painting photography. He has worked with his unique art form ever since in his various works. Dean has created stunning portraits of well-known individuals such as David Bowie and Paul McCartney.
- Eric Staller
Eric Staller is an American artist born in 1947. He is called the ‘father of light painting’ by using light and architecture as a medium to create and design works of art. He began to engage in light painting photography in the late 70s, and his light paintings series is one of the most influential series on light painters today. A self-employed photographer, he won an NEA fellowship in 1977 and a CAPS grant in 1976. He has been an artist-in-residence at such schools as Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore; Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and the University of Michigan.
- John Hesketh
An American photographer, John Hesketh described himself a painter trapped in a photographer's body. He has been doing light painting since 1984. In 1985, John took his camera into his backyard and began work on his first light painting series “Homelife”; he always uses his house, yard and his neighborhood home as a set, he then assembled, combined and redefined every object into narratives of a sort, which he then captures on film. Due to long exposures and light source are crucial in light painting photography, most of John’s works shot at night, which intensifies their supernatural; some of his images, his iconic works included “Question of Faith” and the “Ascension”.
- Tokihiro Sato
Tokihiro Sato is a Japanese artist born in 1957, and he is one of the best-known artists working in light painting photography. Trained as a sculptor, he has been using photography since the late 1980s to express his ideas about light and space. In an ongoing series that he describes as “breath graphs”, he used a large-format camera set on a tripod and timed for exposures that may last from hours; when shooting in daylight, he flashes a mirror at the sun, while at night, or indoors, he uses a flashlight. Tokihiro is currently working as a professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts.