Lichtfaktor: The Writing's Not On The Wall
In the first of a series of posts dedicated to artists working with light, published in association with Aurea by Philips, Gavin Lucas speaks to the “lightwriting” collective, Lichtfaktor, about their work.
Lichtfaktor – a collective of like-minded VJs and graffiti artists based in Cologne, Germany – comprises the talents of $ehvermögen, JIAR and 10X (real names Marcel Panne, David Lüpschen and Tim Fehske). The trio collaborated and developed the artform they refer to as “lightwriting” when Panne, a photographer and resident VJ of Drum & Bass label Basswerk, was commissioned to create a video projection for the Deutscher Ärzte Verlag that visualised the theme Energy In Motion.
We caught up with Lichtfaktor’s $ehvermögen to find out more about the collective and about lightwriting.
Short film, Starwars v Startrek
CR: Tell us a bit more about yourselves and your backgrounds.
LICHTFAKTOR: I’m a phtographer and VJ, David Lüpschen (JIAR) is a communication designer, illustrator and graffiti-artist and Tim Fehske (10X) is a VJ and musician studying theatre, film and television science at Cologne University. We sometimes work with (Mrs. Ducktank) and we always work with the same musician, The Green Man, real name Heiner Kruse, who has been DJing since 1984 and is the founder of label Basswerks - a Drum & Bass label for which I am the resident VJ.
CR: Who or what are your influences?
LICHTFAKTOR: We are influenced by Picasso, marko-93 and PIKAPIKA, graffiti, street art and visual music. Some of our all-time heroes include Wolf Vostell, Chargesheimer, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, George Lucas, Oskar Fischinger, Laurie Anderson.
CR: Do you see yourselves as artists or film-makers - or both?
LICHTFAKTOR: Our work to date has been heavily influenced by streetart/graffiti but you also find elements of early abstract films (by the likes of Oskar Fischinger) and VJing. There is always a dialogue between the world of graffiti and that of music visuals and it is interesting for both sides because graffiti artists mostly don’t think in animations, time and movement – and for VJs it is interesting to produce footage in a graffiti manner and it is also the style and way of life that graffiti stands for.
CR: You use the phrase “lightwriting”…
LICHTFAKTOR: With “lightwriting” we are able to get the best from photography, painting/graffiti and stop-motion film-making techniques and by combining all these elements together in our work we can go new ways and realise ideas in a fresh way.
CR: How did this form of art occur? Were you the first to do it?
LICHTFAKTOR: No, we were not the first to use the photographic technique of light painting; Picasso, for example, had already made some pictures this way! But we think we are the first group that does animations with in-camera light paintings and has this graffiti background. Actually, there are many lightwriters with different skills and backgrounds and for more information do check our webpage www.lichtfaktor.eu
CR: Do you prefer to work with certain equipment or in certain places?
LICHTFAKTOR: We like the contrast in effect between different light sources. For example, Xenon gives a nice golden look, while with LEDs you can create thin, precise lines, and cold cathode light sources allow you to create a fat-nibbed marker pen style.
We put glasses and other different things on our various light sources to get different shapes and colours or we use multi LED lights and colour filters… We like green, pink, magenta. And we like it when the environment in which we’re creating our work is integrated well into the picture. Like the trashcans in our Starwars vs. Startrek film.
CR: Do you plan your shots, and then go on the field to take them, or is improvising a big factor of your work?
LICHTFAKTOR: Most of the time we know what we want to draw before we go out, but we are always inspired by the places and situations we shoot in. And because it’s a live process it’s always somehow improvised because you can’t plan everything before you actually take the pictures.
CR: In practice, how similar is the thing that you imagine you are drawing to the final outcome?
LICHTFAKTOR: We have practiced so much that we are quite precise now. We know our skills (lightwriting), what the different types of lights will look like and we’ve got the camera skills to get the results we’re after.
CR: Do you think of light-painting as an evolution of graffiti?
LICHTFAKTOR: For us it is an evolution and a chance to animate graffiti characters in urban landscapes. But in general we would say that graffiti is graffiti and lightgraffiti is lightgraffiti.
CR: For any budding lightwriters out there - do you have any tips?
LICHTFAKTOR: To get the best results you need a tripod. The exposure should be around 10-30 seconds or longer if needed. Stay in front of the camera and do your writing. Do not overexpose! Set the camera to about iso100, and close your aperture as much as possible. If there is still too much light you might have to use an nd-filter. It is always nice to integrate the surrounding into your picture.
We have a collection of flashlights, biking-lights and flashing LED lights which all work with batteries so that we are mobile - and you also get nice results with fireworks and torches .
There are 3 different type of lights we use:
1. Xenon: makes a warm golden light.
2. LED: makes a thin precise line.
3. Cold cathode: thick line.
But the best results experiment using filters and things which reflect light.
See Lichtfaktor's website for more info and to view more of their work.
As part of our series on artists working with light, published in association with Aurea by Philips, CR commissioned Lichtfaktor to create a new film which will debut exclusively on the CR Blog on 8 October. Here are some stills from the project:
UPDATE: Here's the film.
The work of this crew is totally amazing.
THAT kind of work is amzing. Light becomes a substance.
What Picasso did with Gjon Mili, the photographer who took the pictures in 1949, is really beautiful.
"The Centaur". And you understand, in a way, how Picassi did his drawings.
In France, Rezine, graffiti artist, and Guillaume Plisson, photographer, do a interesting work with Lightgraff, which deals with typography. Beautiful as well.
Thanks for sharing this interview.
To be honest with you, painting with light in this way isn't 'new' per se, and I've seen lots of students with snaps like this in their portfolios (god knows I did).
Lichtfaktor, though, have taken it to a new level. Their Flickr set really blew me away the first time I saw it this year - it's the way they draw with the light that makes it so expressive.
Great interview btw!
Talk about product placement overkill - this post sponsored by Philips Aurea together with two separate banners advertising Aurea on the homepage and the background to the blog pages ringed with light replicating the Aurea tv - with another badge at the top of the page just in case we haven't already got the hint.
Subliminal it ain't..!
I agree with Dan, painting with light is a "common" technique in photography, not an easy one, it requires a lot of experimenting to get right. The Lichtfaktor Crew do take it into a different dimension.
I think it's the blend of different specialties of the crew members that really turn this into something special.
Great work by the Lichtfaktor Crew & great content by the CR Blog crew.
Strangely enough I'm not that impressed.
Lightpainting itself is not new - I have done some work myself over the past couple of years:
What only one person so far has managed - Tokihiro Sato - is to really integrate the artificial light into the surrounding environment so that it really looks like it belongs there.
Check out his "Photo Respiration" series to see what I mean.
Drawing artificial patterns outdoors isn't that hard - all you need is the right equipment and a little practice.
We have been participating in these animations for a few years now with a group from Japan named Tochka (they coined the term PikaPika, mention by $ehvermögen as one of their influences). The continually evolving compilation of these animations has won awards and been in animation festivals.
Most recent compilation:
Archive of PikaPika sessions:
Having playing with these techniques for 26 years I have to take my hats off to Lichtfaktor for getting some recognition :-)
Gruss Aus Bristol
These images are dope. I'm trying out the same art using my Nikon D40X - thanks for bring attention to this technique and giving me plenty of inspirations to keep me busy.
Those images and videos are amazing! Thank you for enlightening me!
Do you think xenon-headlights are the next step to increase safety?
Thanks for this great post...
it's off the hook...love it...
LICHTFAKTOR has a new Website:
We have lots of fantastic light painting videos and photos on it but also some of our new stuff that we do like shows and interactive media art.
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