All images by 2wenty. Used with permission.
“A lot of my work is driven off bottled up emotions and photography is my outlet for it and as result the emotions are frozen in time by the camera.” says artist 2wenty. For 2wenty, the long exposures produced are a reflection of self on top of creative expression.
The character is “Man Made of Light” was born one night during a party, when 2wenty decided to go out and experiment with light. Combine this with a love of going out alone at night and photography and you’ve got yourself an awesome idea for a project once you throw in a dash of creative freedom.
And for 2wenty, the Man Made of Light is a constant companion.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
2wenty: In 2008-2009 I had a girlfriend that was a photographer. Through her I discovered what long exposure and light painting was (at that time I didn’t even know it had a name). Not being able to afford a good camera, it was something that would have to wait. I started out doing Street Art at the end of 2010. It ended up getting too popular for my liking and it had lost its meaning to me. Plus I didn’t think I could make a career out of it. The end of 2011 came and finally being able to afford a decent camera, I decided it was time to follow the photography path.
Phoblographer: What made you want to get into doing cool concept stuff like this?
2wenty: I’m not sure the exact reason, but I was really drawn to night photography. Ever since being a kid I always liked be up late at night alone. Theres a calm to it. I knew when I got into photography I wanted to solely be a nighttime photographer with a heavy focus on long exposure. I didn’t really see anyone that was focused purely on nighttime stuff and I wanted to be as different as possible.
Coming from Street Art where I was putting a lot of underlying meaning in the art it was something that carried over to photography. A lot of my work is driven off bottled up emotions and photography is my outlet for it and as result the emotions are frozen in time by the camera.
Phoblographer: Most long exposures out there really just try to create cool patterns, but your work is far beyond that. You literally created an entity. What was the creative vision and inspiration for this?
2wenty: I knew right away from the start that I wanted the photos to be balanced, I never wanted the light to be the focal point. The light had to be tied in with the environment and thus telling a story.
The character came out of progression. My light paintings started with me writing quotes from emotions, my name, abstracts and some characters but not the one you see today.
I was at a party one night and being anti-social I decided I’d rather be taking photos. I went out to my car grabbed my gear and walked to an alley. The whole time I was thinking about what’s next. I always try to push myself to find new things or let them find me. It just popped into my head to make the character you see today. The first try was close, I got it on the second and found the concept on the third all within an hour.
Phoblographer: This man made of light is often portrayed alone. Why? Was there specific thought put into the character development here? What about storyboarding?
2wenty: Anytime I’m making something I always watch very closely at what’s taking place on the surface and underneath. It was a little later that I came to the realization that the character was me, a self portrait.
It was me that was out in the middle of nowhere alone, the photos were just circumstance, an unconscious representation of what was happening. 99% of the time I shoot alone and I notice as time goes on the further I go out into the middle of nowhere. Realizing that nowhere means (now)here, present in the moment. It’s too easy to lose sight of what’s important when living a big city (Los Angeles), surrounded by all the noise and chaos. When I go out to an empty place there is no chance to run from myself and everything comes to light–literally and figuratively.
So far there hasn’t been a solid storyboard, except that it’s an ongoing representation of myself. I was working with someone that was doing a documentary of me and the character in 2013. There was a lot of stop motion with the light guy but it ended up falling through. I always wanted to put a story together and create something along those lines but working a 60 hr a week job never allowed the time for that to happen. It will happen someday.
Phoblographer: Artists often try to creatively express themselves when doing work like this. What are you trying to get across with this project?
2wenty: In pretty much everything I do there is always an underlying meaning. I usually don’t say up front when the work is presented. I want the viewer to decide what they see in my work. I want them to use their imagination, instead of me telling them what they should see.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear that you used to do this.
2wenty: When I first found out about long exposure I looked into getting a camera. From what I seen the buzz that mirrorless cameras where on the horizon. Being someone that really didn’t know about cameras, I still knew that DSLR’s to me were way to bulky and heavy. When I finally did decide to take the jump, mirrorless had just hit the market.
From what I researched Sony looked like they were really pushing the technology envelope, so I went with the NEX5N. It was super compact, light, touch screen and full of innovation. It was amazing that you could put any lens on it via adapter. I knew right away they would be doing big things, so I hopped on the Sony train and I’m still riding it. I went from the NEX 5N to the NEX 7 then on to full frame with the A7R since I tend to print my work big. I also have a RX100 for day to day pocket camera. It’s also been a big goal to work with Sony an Artisan. Still hoping for that to happen someday. The next step may be medium format with the launch of the 100mp Sony sensor Phase One.
In the mix of all the digital work I also shoot film. I wanted to push the limits of my skills of long exposure and I knew the difficulty of film would be a good test. I ended up falling in love with the process of film. I do my best to take the least amount of photos and make everything count and that falls perfectly inline with film . I would shoot it everyday if it wasn’t so expensive.
To date my film gear is, Contax G1, G2, T3. Pentax Mx. Olympus XA, XA2, XA4, OM2N (with winder). Yashica D, T2. Lomography LCA+. Hasselblad XPAN. Minolta SRT101. Nikon 35TI. A couple Polaroid land cameras hacked to do long exposures and may favorite film camera of them all the Ricoh GR1V. Still looking to add the rare Ricoh GR21.
From the get go I’ve made my own lights. There was no way a flashlight would give me the control I needed to create something intricate.
Phoblographer: So what’s the intention with this series? A book? A gallery?
2wenty: Nothing fully dedicated to the character as of yet. I keep the light guy alive from time to time until I can get the complete vision of what needs to happen. I have done a few gallery show and commissions with it. There will be a book eventually once the wheels are in motion. I have a love for making books. Also following along with my love for concepts, I make a limited edition book every year to recap the last and the light guy has been included in them all. The books being named 2wenty13, 2wenty14 and 2wenty15. The latest one can be found on my website if anyone is interested.