Light Paintings in Urban Environments by Sola

Posted at 12 pm on August 6, 2010 by

Posted in: Light Art, Photographic Illustration, Street Art

Light paintings, light art or ‘light graffiti’ is an artistic form that hasn’t been covered on Ape on the Moon, and, after seeing the vibrant and straight up inspiring work of UK-based artist Sola, I was excited to include it.

Sola was kind enough to respond to some questions in great detail, so I will cut to the chase and show you the interview, which explains his background and how he does the art as well as light art’s place in the art world.

How did you stumble into light paintings?

I did the whole art school thing and loved every second but the realities of life meant that I started working as a commercial / editorial photographer. Ater a few years I started to fall out of love with it so decided to try and put some spark back by working on personal projects.

I’d started shooting some inner city landscapes at night and something was ‘missing’ so I started to illuminate the scene with flash and other light sources. One day, quite by accident one of the lights was caught in the shot and well, the rest is history as I was once again in charge of the whole image making process.


How do you create the light art?

The basic technique is no real secret; you take a photograph, in my case using a Canon EOS 5, with a long exposure and move a light source in front of the camera – the camera records wherever the light goes.

I have a huge range of light sources that I use to create different effects and textures so depending on what I have in mind I’ll take the relevant lights and head off to one of the many locations I have stored away in a mental list.

As a rule I tend to shoot late at night as the streets are empty and I can relax and get into what I’m doing, which is really important as I like to be spontaneous and reactive to the environment.

I’m also trying to show these spaces in a new light so to speak so the quieter these ordinarily busy streets are, the better.


Once I’m at a location I get absorbed and often whatever plans for a shot I may have had go out of the window, it’s almost as though the location dictates what should be created.

Once I’ve shot the image I have a very strict rule that I never use any Photoshop trickery with my work, so what you see is what I shoot.

Also, if I’m ever caught in a shot then it won’t go out, for me part of the magic is seeing these beautiful ethereal sculptures that appear to be living and breathing in these, some would say, dead spaces.

My studio work is no exception to the above but it allows me complete control all of the creative process. When I’m working in the studio I get completely absorbed and will often shoot right through the night.


What do you think light graffiti/painting significance is in the art world, and is it becoming more popular?

In many ways, light art is taking photography back to its beginnings in alchemy and experimentation.

It’s all about an exploration of the affects of light on the photographic image.

As with any medium there’s work which does and doesn’t have a place in the art world. I personally am conscious that my work needs to hold many elements such as concept, aesthetic and narrative that inject artistic merit and therefore have a justified artistic offering.

Although there are many people making light art I am one of an extremely small group approaching this from an artistic point of view.

This contemporary work is very new and sure, the art world (as establishment) needs to catch up to this but there again, the art world is changing, becoming more accessible and boundaries are dissolving.

These days the public become the critic via their blogs, via their mouse click and by choosing real artists as apposed to super market ‘art’ to adorn their walls. It’s a really interesting time.

© Sola, 2010

What are you working on right now?

At the moment I have a few personal projects underway; I’m working on a short film / animation of my light art, which is coming together slowly but I’m determined to get it completed by Autumn.

I’m also working on a couple of projects which are merging my studio practice with my street work. Through this I’m exploring the rural environment and so far so good!

I’m also working with a couture clothing company from Germany on a range of fabric prints which will form part of a collection this Autumn. It’s going to be a great project, although it’s a shame I wont be able to wear the end result as I don’t look too hot in a dress!

See more of Sola’s work and buy prints at his site: lightbombing.com.