In Montreal, in a tiny, intimate studio barely big enough for all his cameras, photographer Eric Paré shapes light.
Paré spent years doing typical studio work, but it was when he started experimenting with light sources such as bicycle LEDs, children’s toys, and a flashlight that he discovered he was able to shape light by hand and create a magical experience for himself and his subject. Through trial and error, he slowly increased the power of his flashlight and decreased his exposure time from 60 seconds to one second. And, he emphasizes, only one second. That is still the usual exposure time of his pictures.
It took about two months from the time of Paré’s first light-painting picture for him to feel satisfied with the effect he was able to achieve. In his process, he became the shadow holding up the light, revealing his subject through precise movements, a technique which led to something very powerful in the images.
Shooting in a tiny studio space has many constraints. A larger studio would afford Paré the possibility of using a longer lens and getting less distortion in the images. However, in his own small studio, he has discovered that using a wide-angle lens creates “crazy flares” that he is able to exploit in his images.
Working away from his studio, Paré has one requirement: a black box (no windows, black-covered wall). Having a pitch-black room provides optimal results. Occasionally, Paré will go outside and shoot at night. It is harder outside to make himself invisible, but he likes to use natural landscapes when possible.
Although he usually works on his own, Paré has had successful collaborations with others. He worked on a project for Fotolia with Mike Campau, a digital artist from Michigan. Their project was a great mix, as Campau was good at adding digital elements to the empty space in Paré’s pictures. The result was superb composition. Paré has also collaborated with Yanick Décarie, a body painter. He insisted that Décarie use only black and white paint. This restriction then allowed Paré to explore using colour during the photo shoot.
Paré uses light-painting, bullet-time, and stop-motion photography techniques, which he describes as follows:
“Light-painting is drawing with light while using a long exposure setting on the camera. Bullet-time is capturing a moment in 3-D by using many cameras. Stop-motion is achieved by taking multiple subsequent pictures of a moving subject and combining the sequence into a video. I mix the three techniques, which creates some sort of animation where we can travel in space (bullet time) and time (stop-motion). Using light-painting allows me to have a light that is very concentrated on the subject, thus making the surrounding cameras nearly invisible.”
For single shots, Paré uses a Canon 5D3. For most of his recent work in 360 degrees, he uses a 32 Canon SL1, seven computers, metres of cables, and his own custom software. His lighting is simple: tactical lights (about 300 lumens) and a variety of coloured papers, gels, glass, and anything else that will create diffusion, reflection, or concentration of light.
When Paré works in a 360-degree bullet-time environment, he gets the same pictures from many angles. Sometimes he picks out the best possible angles and leaves out the full 360-degree animation. He anticipates the day when this technology can be put into smartphones, enabling people to gather together and make bullet-time pictures for themselves. The technology hasn’t been developed yet, but he has created a mobile app called xangle (http://xangle.co) that people can use to make multi-angled pictures. One person presses the button on the app, and all the participants’ smartphone cameras are triggered at the same time. Then everyone receives all the pictures from all the phones and can create a mosaic by using the images. Paré uses the same technology when he installs cameras in live concerts, and people can trigger his cameras and instantly receive pictures from different angles at the same time, simultaneously being able to combine the images with their selfies.
To demonstrate this technique, Paré offers a documentary online called LightSpin. For this project, he triggered 24 cameras more than 20 000 times, resulting in nearly half a million pictures.
LightSpin was a deeply personal project. Although Paré is not a dancer, he explored a concept that, in essence, allowed him to perform pas de deux with a series of dancers. Everything was improvised, and he had to anticipate where each dancer was going. He held a light in his right hand and a remote control in his left. He had to gradually adapt the angle of his right arm to achieve smooth transitions. He triggered the cameras every two seconds, holding the exposure for one second. During that second, the dancer had to remain perfectly still to avoid being blurred. In the remaining second, the dancer made a slight move to the next pose. Dancer and photographer maintained a constant rhythm, and on very long sequences (200 pictures and sometimes more), they became so focused that their breathing became synchronized, not only with each other but with the sound of the camera shutters. Paré and the dancers made this project in total darkness and total silence in what he describes as an “ultra inspiring little circle.”
Paré has a deep passion for his work, developed painstakingly and lovingly over time, and he provides online tutorials for others. People have suggested that he should protect his ideas and techniques with copyrights, but he disagrees. “Let’s share our passion, our knowledge and hope for the best, for all of us.”