David M Peters – Malen mit Licht




Photography is Painting with Light

In the beginning the world was one enigma. Mythological thinking gave way to a scientific approach to nature. Mankind discovered that matter and light mutually influence each other and that we can make use of this mutuality.

Technical apparatus was invented that used chemical and physical phenomena to open humanity's eyes to a world of wonders. Photo-chemical processes and opto-mechanical tools have since been perfected.

The goal of the photo-industry remains based on technical specifications, not on artistic endeavors. Thus, the user of photo apparatus is slave to the possibilities that are limited by the engineer.

19th century Painters like Delacroix and Courbet have used photos as a sketchbook. Photographic techniques brought nature into the artist's studio.

Until now photography mostly serves as a means of remembering reality. The viewer looks through the photograph and recognizes the depicted symbol. Photography is used as a window to an abstract construed remembrance.

Photography was limited to a projection screen. Photography celebrates either the technical perfection of the image or the radiance of the portrayed symbol.

To me its like limiting a pencil to be allowed to merely draw straight lines. Obviously, the pencil is a highly versatile tool that serves the ideas of the creative artist.

Painting has surpassed the role of simply imitating nature. The painter Franz Marc answered a lady's remark that a horse could never be blue: „This is not a horse but a painting.“

Photography is a unique complex graphical technique. Its elements can be arranged by the artist in any possible manner. The artist should not be limited by the possibilities of the photo-apparatus.

So I took the apparatus apart, that trinity of perfect lens, bellows and optimized chemistry and I strived for my individual combination of technical elements. I designed specific lamps and remote camera-controls.

I also dismantled the act of taking a picture: what can one photograph at all? What attitude is behind the photographic process – is it observing or influencing the depicted reality before the lens? And, of course, any artist's question: how far can my personal control of the artistic process go? To me, it‘s clear, I cannot completely control the creative process.

A 4x5 inch large format camera is fixed on a tripod in a dark room. The camera can be radio-controlled and exposes Polaroid-material. The model cannot see the camera and I can only guess what exactly the camera records.

I don't hide behind the camera but I stand very close to the model. I light the model with a very compact lamp. The lamp itself is invisible to the camera but the effects of the lighting record cumulatively on the Polaroid (painting with light).

A creative dance of photographer and model emerges when I move with the lamp, and the model also changes postures. The image is created only with light - layer for layer of light, I work from the black into the light. Different gels change color, sharpness and moods. The spatial reference is also created not through props, but only with light.

My work deals with capturing time. Photography alone is capable of reducing the subjective perception through the course of time to one objective image. Taking a photo in this way takes from 5 to 30 minutes. The result is a multi-layered image. It's like a whole movie on one frame.

I love chance, and the magic of the moment. If the atmosphere between model and photographer is magical, then magical images emerge. It's an exploration into unknown terrain. The results are a portrait of the shared stance of photographer-observer and model-actor.

By printing the wet Polaroid on watercolor-paper (Polaroid Image Transfer), the delusive photographic detail is diminished. The viewer's look ought to stick to the photographic image and should not immediately try to discern the depicted symbol.

Since the results can be viewed only minutes after painting the photo, variations can easily be tried.

The prints are digitized; some spots are retouched and their contrast is adapted. My works are “virgin photography”. The final print is made on watercolor paper with light resistant inks in editions of 10.

David Peters, Vienna 2006