by Dilpreet BhullarOct 12, 2021
The experience of watching Vitor Schietti’s photograph is akin to trailing edges of the fantastical world. The element of magic in these real photographs, which are formally termed as “light paintings”, brings to fore the beauty of nature in a hitherto unseen light. The etymology of the term ‘photographs’ could be traced to the Greek word phos, meaning ‘light’ and graphe meaning ‘drawing or writing’. From the coining of this term in the 19th century to the current period of the 21st century, the discipline of photography has come a long way. Furthermore, the light paintings that Schietti practices oversee a photographic technique of long exposures that leads the viewers to an inordinately animated world. Born in Brasilia, Brazil, and now settled in Barcelona, Spain, Schietti likes to call himself a global citizen after having travelled to more than 20 countries. It would not be an exaggeration to say the seamless floating of the lights in the work by Schietti in a way becomes a metaphorical point of representing the flow of expedition to the variety of places.
In an interview with STIR, Schietti talks about the continuous presence of the natural elements from Brazil that has informed his project Impermanent Sculptures, “It started from putting together a course on long exposure techniques, something I liked to play with since my first steps in photography. I was researching light painting and it inspired me to prove some mixed techniques. My first trees were over water, then over some fantastic rock formations in Brazil called Valley of the Moon. Soon the image of a tree came to my mind while swimming, some sort of meditation. I took advantage of that time of the year in Brasilia when a tree called Cagaita flourishes into white flowers taking over all its canopy, so the image Tree of Life was born, and from there on I really enjoyed the practice of highlighting the tree shapes across the central region of Brazil. Before setting up the camera I would go around looking out for trees or for rock formations, waterfalls, and performing the ‘painting’ of the environment over the air.”
To feed the curious minds who are keen to know how exactly he creates the works peppered with illuminated lights, Schietti mentions, “I mount hand sparkles (bought in fireworks stores) to the tip of a rod to reach higher places, have the camera set on a tripod with ND filters to allow me for long exposures while there's still a bit of sunlight, so I avoid doing it when it's completely dark. With exposure times varying from eight to 30 seconds I take several pictures and then combine them into one image. I can have more control over the result of my final composition since I choose which areas from each frame will be included in the final image. The digital work is selecting masks from several layers, adjusting contrast and colour, but no digital sparkle or other digital elements are created.”
To affirm the subtle reflection of painting technique in the works, Schietti confesses that he thought of ending up being a painter. His mother taking a close note of his proclivity towards drawing got him enrolled in an art school that made him fell in love with watercolours. Even if not frequently, he occasionally paints with watercolour, furthermore so, “it was the central technique for another project that combines photos of the sky with watercolor to illustrate how our thoughts would look like if we could see them.” Now formally a photographer and not a painter, Schietti elucidates, “I like referring back to the imagination as a tool to create a better reality. When we visualise a thought or the energy that brings life to trees, for example, we are also creating it at some level, and I believe in the power of collective thought towards a better future.”
When the works are set against the natural setting and involve fireworks, they could pose challenges that could (un) knowingly disturb the ecological balance and even delay the production of the works. Besides the logistical difficulties, there are physical challenges of reaching far-off places in the more isolated terrains, like forests and mountains and by the sea. “If I am dealing with fire, I have to be cautious,” the artist underlines, “for my own sake and for the sake of the environment I am performing.” Aware of the fragile state of the nature, Schietti chooses to do the photos only over places that do not have dry leaves or things that could catch on fire. He admits, “Over the 60 times I performed this technique, not once I had any major incident, but that is only to say I am watchful and will continue to be so.”
The lights as an embellishment in the works of Schietti open a way to restore the relationship between human and nature. The artist says, “When I talk about the energy throughout the subjects of my photos, a vital force that proceeds and will succeed our own kind, it is a poetic way to bring attention to the value of life itself, and not only human life.” Schietti when states, “Let's put imagination to use, review our habits, improve ourselves, together, and save the world,” he, without being instructive through his works, underlines the coexistence of the two worlds that have otherwise divided into two distinct entities: human and nature.