The long exposure with flashlight lighting is not a rare technique, being easily found photographic experiments in internet that make use of it, generally referred to as light painting or light scribbling (Flickr). However, there’s little systematic exploration of its aesthetics possibilities – beyond its basic forms – and little seeking for expanding, from its base, to a problematic it creates in photography field.
Even in the history of photography, there were only a few photographers that gave it a deeper approach, in such a way that there aren’t many photo icons of this technique. Possibly the most important and most known image is the portrait Gjon Mili made of Picasso in 1949, illustration of this post. This experiment clearly accomplishes, by the drawing made by the painter with the flashlight, a hybridism between the objective photographic record and the gesture trace of the drawing, but without going too far of the indexical aspect of photography through post-production. The flash, then, registers an instant of Picasso’s figure that coexists in the photogram with the image produced by his drawing process - way beyond the short instant. The gesture is inserted and one only photographic record is cohabitated by different temporalities.
A little earlier, but still contemporaneous to Mili’s photo, Harry Callahan also worked with long exposition processes and, more frequently, of multiple exposure.
A similar case, the photographer Evgen Bavcar also uses this technique, but producing a different aesthetic. The long exposure makes Bavcar’s photos somewhat surrealistic and, for the visual deficiency of the photographer – blind since he was 12 -, it is quite often qualified as tactile, mixing the sight and the touch in the constitution of the image. In this case also, the gesture is incorporated beyond the pressing of the camera’s button and the photographic instant is distended and opened wide to the intervention of the photographer to the process itself.