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Shooting the city @ night with Christina Seely & her “Lux” project …

christinaseely_lasvegas_lux

A few weeks ago I was privileged to help out a wonderful US photographer Christina Seely  shooting her latest project “Lux”.  I became aware of her work after a call out on Mark Page’s excellent Manchester Photography website back in June.

A number of reasons prompted me to answer the request for assistance.

  • I checked out Christina’s website and I really liked her work.
  • Her own areas of interest happen to be ones I share a passion for too; namely the planet, our relationship with nature/the environment and the effect of one on the other.
  • Personally, I have found collaborations are a good thing if one has a gut-feeling to do it.
  • It presented a great opportunity to learn from a successful photographer who has drive, talent and belief in abundance.
  • A  measure of helping is always good for the Soul Department.

The gist of the “Lux” project as explained by Christina (from a blog interview with Plazm magazine) :

“A few years ago I rediscovered the NASA map of the world at night and I kept coming back to it over and over again. I was captivated by the beauty of the light on the map and also the complexity of what this light represents about us.  The conclusion is that this light obviously equals an intensely negative impact on the planet.  However, since it’s inception, man made light has also represented; ingenuity and progress, innovation, growth, prosperity, amusement, romance, optimism and promise – basically fundamentally positive and hopeful things. My real interest lies in this complexity and what it reflects about our current relationship with the planet.

The final body of work will be made up of photographs that document the artificial glow produced by the 43 brightest cities at night.”

This is a 4 year, worldwide project and a great deal of organisation, skill and research has been required for each of the shoots to go ahead.  Many artists mention their process when they discuss their work, when you read Christina’s “Lux” blog, one can gain a very real sense of this being more akin to a quest.   It highlights the efforts an artist has to put in behind the scenes to deliver; including battling an airport theft (Madrid) and a fire (Edinburgh).

My role for the Manchester and Liverpool shoots: location scout, navigator, car driver, equipment carrier, safety-in-numbers guard, torch bearer, stopwatch watcher, umbrella handler, local guide and regional catering advisor.

christina_and_camera

Christina uses a beautiful handmade 5×4 field camera to record her work, modelled by Christina in the above phote.   For “Lux” the aim is that the finished prints will be large and so the rendering needs to be as detailed as possible.    After copious testing, her chosen film for the work was Portra 100T negative, which presented a problem as Kodak decided to discontinue the whole range once shooting had commenced.  I think by scraping Ebay Christina should just get through to the end of the project (however, if anyone knows of any further sources then please do get in touch).  Average time for exposing the film was 3 hours.  This is due to the effects of reciprocity failure.

The spot I thought might work for the Liverpool shoot was Bidston Hill on the Wirral, close to Birkenhead (thanks also to Chris Coles for help scouting locations and research).   However, I must admit I was a little worried about wandering a lonely location such as this in the dead of night.  Due to it’s landmark windmill, it is a popular meet-up place for the local youth.  Thankfully,  despite the shoot starting around 11pm on a Friday night, we were bothered only by moths and a shooting star, a hooting owl provided the odd punctuation mark.  Manchester was captured from a field near the summit of Hartshead Pike, Mossley.  No threat of hassle, just a wonderful night sky, a few curious horses, low-flying bats, great company (Richard Brook from MMU also helped on this shoot) and a tiny bit of drizzle.  Both shoots were surreal, magical and very special.  I do not think I have ever sat and consumed the same scene for so long.

lux1_manchester

This project is now nearing completion as regards photography and there is already interest worldwide concerning possible sites to exhibit the body of work.  I cannot wait to see all of the filmic images displayed in one place.   Especially the shoots I tagged along for, will those two sheets of 5 x 4 film reveal the same things I conjured and remember so vividly?  Will they even make the finished cut … as I know some degree of image editing will be necessary.

A final footnote, Christina has been in touch to tell me about another project she is involved with called the Civil Twilight Collective who have been busily working on a fantastic idea: Lunar Resonant Streetlights.  It has been nominated for the prestigious Index Award (the world’s largest design award 500,000 euro prize-money) in the Community category.

lunarresonantstreetlights

There are some amazing ideas shortlisted, all along the theme of “Design to Improve Life”.  It merits a blog post of it’s own and if you have an interest in this subject you will find it well worth a visit.  Whilst there, you can cast your vote for the People’s Choice (I have) but be quick as voting ends tomorrow Friday 28th August when the winner is announced.

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