This past week has seen just a fraction of the awesomeness that comes when one takes inspiration from art while working on photography. From recreating iconic artworks as in the case of RES, or using the old styles of painting to create new portraits as in the case of Eugenio Recuenco, the possibilities are endless. However, you can't talk about art and photography without featuring one of the 20th Century's most influential collaborations between the two fields: Pablo Picasso's Light Paintings or Light Drawings as photographed by Gjon Mili.
Gjon Mili was a staff photographer for Life for most of his life, having worked there for 46 years. His work with Picasso stemmed from his ground-breaking work with flash strobes and long exposures. For anyone unfamiliar with the technique, a long exposure allows the film (or digital sensor) to record a scene for several seconds, minutes or hours at a time. Because the film is continually record the scene before it, any noticeable changes in the scene such as movement can create blurs or light streaks as in this case.
Pablo Picasso of course is one of the last century's most influential artists. His styles of work are as diverse as the times he lived in, from the romantic to the cubist to the surreal, Picasso was influenced by and in turned influenced the evolution of modern art. He was very much willing to experiment with whatever caught his fancy, as evidenced by these light drawings.
Mili and Picasso began creating their light drawings in 1949. In order to achieve the effect, Picasso drew in the air using a small flashlight attached to a power source. The drawings would be done in a darkened room in order for the flashlight's light trails to be recorded. Mili would then flash his strobe, usually at the end of the light drawing, to capture the artist in the frame. The most popular photograph in the series was the picture "Picasso draws a centaur in the air" (second image from the top of this post).
The first documented light painting by a professional artist or photographer was actually created Man Ray in 1935. Man Ray himself was a pioneer in the field of photography, experimenting with the medium among many others in order to create his artworks.
Still, Gjon Mili and Pablo Picasso were light painting before light painting was cool.
While the results from the first meeting were largely experimental, Picasso was so excited by the results that he met with Mili four more times, each time drawing more elaborate light paintings.
Even when talking about experiments, Picasso and Mili broke new ground; Picasso drew even more complex art, and Mili tried different angles for his camera and flash strobes. In a few cases, Mili tried several flashes during one exposure to capture the artist at different stages of his drawing (as in the scene below).
Today, light painting has become a popular project in the digital photography world, but it wasn't so long ago that artists and photographers were creating works of art from pure imagination.
Most of these images came from the Life.com article featuring the collaboration of Gjon Mili and Pablo Picasso on Painting with Light. In terms of books, there seems to be only one available on Gjon Mili's photography: Gjon Mili: Photographs and Recollections, but why not get a few on Pablo Picasso while you're shopping? Picasso or Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art are your best bet.