Ball of Light: How Light Painting Saved a Man’s Life
By Maria Popova
We love a good creativity-saves-lives story, and it hardly gets any better than Australian photographer Denis Smith‘s: Two years ago, Smith was suffering from depression, cracking under the pressure of a demanding job, struggling with money, and living on the verge of alcoholism. One day, he discovered photography and light painting, and eventually developed his unique, otherworldly “ball of light” style, the product of a remarkably simple — and absolutely brilliant in its simplicity — technique.
It all takes place at night. I can’t tell you exactly how I find them, and I’m still not exactly sure what they mean. But what I do know is that taking these photographs has changed my life.” ~ Denis Smith
In this microdocumentary by photographer Sam Collins, Smith shares his fascinating life story and his unusual creative process:
With normal photography, the shutter opens and closes in a photograph, and you get a snapshot of what’s there in front of the camera. And with light painting, what you do is the shutter stays open for a long period of time, so when it’s a dark environment, it brings more light in, and if you move a light around in front of the camera, it stays embedded in the picture.”
Smith’s art embodies the saving grace that is creative restlessness, and his life experience is a living testament to its duality — the same restlessness that may drive us to addiction and depression can also drive us to invent, to innovate, to create. The challenge, of course, is choosing the creative over the destructive edge, and resting in it.
Published April 4, 2011