Chuck Almarez “Character In Light: Creating the Memorable from the Mundane”
Mar 3, 2017 - Apr 28, 2017
Exhibitions & Films
Character in Light: Creating the Memorable from the Mundane
The first phrase I learned in my Freshman Latin class at Loyola High School in Los Angeles was “Vestis virum facit.” The literal translation is “Clothes make the man.” Although we spent more time in the translation than the meaning of the phrase, we all pretty much understood that if a person dressed well, they’re likely to be (or at least be perceived to be) more intelligent, successful, acceptable, and someone to be reckoned with - and, not the least, someone you might agree to dating your daughter.
While suitable clothing might be a logical solution for people, what about the more mundane objects in our world that may spend their functional lives in a tool box, on a shelf, in a box, or even more briefly in a refrigerator or pantry? What can be done to “dress” them well? If you’re a photographer or painter, then the obvious answer is good lighting. Yet, while a painter creates by deciding what subject matter and lighting will grace their canvas, the photographer creates by deciding what subject matter needs to be left out, removed, or otherwise covered up. And the lighting for a photograph can be natural, (whatever is there), artificial (whatever you can add), or a combination of the two. However, given the complexity of shape in a three dimensional object even the best lighting has its limits. Shadows can be too deep, highlights not bright enough, and the smallest areas of dimension may not standout as much as we would like.
Another alternative that has become more reasonable in the age of digital photography is to paint the subject with light. By that I mean to use a hand held light source (a flashlight being most common) to illuminate the subject during the exposure. This requires a darkened room so that no extraneous light strikes the subject, and a long exposure so that the light can be moved around to light the subject from different angles. Trial and error is the name of the game and some areas may still be too dark or not bright enough, requiring a redo (or several).
A more viable option is to light parts of a subject in separate exposures, combine the exposures in processing, and then to add as much light as desired (much like a painter would do) to each area of the subject. This method provides infinitely more creative and nuanced control than can be achieved with traditional lighting or even with single-exposure light painting. This allows photographers to bring out the character and beauty in even the most mundane objects and puts “life” back into the still life image.
Having provided all this detailed information, I have to caution that it’s not the process but the end result that is the goal. The composition, the lighting, and the presentation are what a viewer experiences and appreciates. The style of brush used by a painter, the size of the chisel used by a sculptor, or the type of camera and software used by a photographer are incidental to the end result. The image must stand on its own regardless of the tools or techniques used.
All of the images in this exhibit are “light painted.” Some are the result of a single exposure while the majority are light painted using multiple exposures. In all cases, it’s the light that gives the subject life and interest beyond what exists in their normal environment and takes them to a new level of significance. Put another way, “Lux facit in subiecto,” or “Light makes the subject.”