As sounds in a musical composition can be used not to express physical objects but ideas, emotions, harmonies, rhythmic orders and most any expression of the human mind and spirit, so light can be used visually to express the mind and spirit. – Wynn Bullock
As long as I can remember I have been fascinated by light…light as a force and an entity in its own right. I recall as a boy finding pieces of glass on the California desert. Some pieces were of recently broken bottles. Their colors were familiar and didn’t excite me. Occasionally, however, I found pieces of very old glass with beautiful prismatic colors. I thought only light and time could have created these colors and I was deeply moved.
Light has become more important than anything in the object world. There is no life without light. All matter is some form of radiant energy. It is through the magic of photography that light becomes the subject matter with colors, forms, and space/time relationships that express my deepest feelings and beliefs.
On the topic of realism in photography, I believe light abstract images express a high level of realism…. Photography as a fine art must be a medium in which both the object world and the world of qualities and essences intuitively and emotionally felt must find expression.
I discovered that I could take a piece of crystal or glass – very fine optical glass – and crack it up. A large piece can break into thousands of little pieces and each one of them comes out with just a beautiful fracture. I would put a few little pieces on a contraption of 8 or 10 layers of glass and I’d have a light underneath. And then I would use other lights. As I moved the pieces around against colored materials [e.g., shards of stained glass and colored cellophane], the fractures would begin to show up in different ways.
It was such close-up work. You couldn’t identify the glass, but by being that close and out-of-focus, all kinds of strange and beautiful optical shapes and effects would form in space. To me that’s real, that’s no illusion. I could move one of these little pieces and it would change the whole character of the picture. I used every kind of light – prismatic light, lights under, lights to the side…. I could move the lamp, I could move the light underneath – I could control the form of the optical image. I wouldn’t use them all at the same time, I would just use them creatively. It was a very experimental period, a very exciting period.
When making these pictures, I use light not to make objects recognizable, but to create beautiful pictures in color, line, surfaces, texture, forms, and space dimensions through the action of light as it strikes objects. I use only objects that have an affinity for light. By this, I mean objects such as glass or water that reflect and transmit light. I use colored glass and cellophane as well as other means to create color. Also I use either natural or artificial light.
Light used in its own right, as in light pictures, gives to photography the wonderful plasticity that paint gives to painting without loss of the unmatched reality of straight photography.
Like sound, light exists everywhere and provides an unlimited means of creative expression. Also like sound, it is a vibration that affects us both physically and psychically. It is completely plastic and both natural and artificial light can be broken up to express all colors. Some of the forms I create are of non-recognizable objects, others are non-material. The non-material forms are created by controlled out-of-focus images made up of pure light.
Another important aspect of my light photography is that I have complete freedom of composition and instant color control. Equally important, I have complete control of the image at the moment of taking the picture as I compose in the ground glass of the camera and see exactly the final results that will appear in the print or color transparency.
In my color work I used reflected, transmitted, and refracted light for subject matter. I used a standard 35mm Exakta camera. The only accessory needed was a dual-rail close-up bellows attachment. The original images were composed looking through the ground glass of the single reflex camera as the subject matter was made up of such small objects that they could not be composed directly with the eye. Any sense of motion suggested by the pictures was not caused by either the camera or the objects being moved during exposure, but by a controlled in-and-out of focusing so the object reality was lost.
Light to me is perhaps the most profound truth in the universe. My thinking has been deeply affected by the belief everything is some form of radiant energy.