Painting with light... and love

Light painting- where photography, painting and feelings come together.

Art by Keren Eicher (left) and Reut Vagner (photo credit: CARL HOFFMAN)
Art by Keren Eicher (left) and Reut Vagner
(photo credit: CARL HOFFMAN)
How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? What emotions do you experience as you begin to contemplate the day ahead? Reut Vagner and Keren Eicher greet each new day excited about the opportunities and possibilities that await them. Stated simply, they love what they do and can’t wait to start doing it.
Vagner and Eicher are two young women artists creating a type of art never before seen in Israel. Called light painting, it involves creating photographs that capture the movement of light. Inspired, they say, by the beauty of light in all of its forms, they create their pictures by hand, using various simple tools and objects to give their light different colors and textures, with the resulting images captured in a single frame.
These images, both abstract and figurative, are created in real time, by two real living, breathing artists, without the aid of computer programs like Photoshop.
The creation of this art arises from the synergy of these two artists meeting, partnering, and working together, despite the fact that they come from different artistic backgrounds.
Reut Vagner, 36, grew up in Petah Tikva and got hooked on photography at a very young age.
“I was into photography since I was five years old,” she recalls.
“My parents bought me my first camera and I started to play with it. I took pictures of everything and my parents kept buying me more and more and more film. I photographed my family, friends, cats – everything that was around me. A lot of nature photos.
Everything. I had a strong feeling that photography was what I wanted to do.” There was, she says, something about “capturing the moment” that really appealed to her.
“But my real passion is light painting. I was searching for a way to sketch with light. I researched a long time. Then I met Keren and we were exposed to the genre of light painting. This has become our thing.”
Keren Eicher, 32, grew up in Herzliya, driven by an urge to draw. She recalls, “I used to draw everything I could think or dream of. At school I used to run away to my drawings. I had a very difficult time at school.”
She eventually found her way to Beit Berl, where she studied art. Eicher met Vagner, learned graphic art, and the two began to work together.
“I want to explain the combination of both of us,” says Vagner.
“Keren is a painter. She has made beautiful paintings with wonderful use of color. I come from photography.
Before I met her, I tried to do light painting, using water. But I didn’t do the sketches, the drawing. When we combined our talents, she brought her great talent in drawing. I brought all the techniques with the camera. She is the talent with the movement. We use darkness as our canvas, and the light as our brush.
We paint with light. The combination of the painter and the photographer enables us to paint with light.”
It also enables them to support themselves with “day jobs,” with Vagner taking wedding photographs and Eicher putting those photographs into visually artistic albums.
The two not only enjoy working together, they say, but they actually need each other when doing light painting. Many hands are needed to hold the things that need to be held, and control what needs to be controlled.
“One person cannot do light painting. It’s a very complex technique,” Vagner explains.
“You need to hold the camera trigger. You have a lot of light sources to control. It’s not like a regular photograph in which the photographer goes out, adjusts his model, the focus, and so on. You need a lot of hands.”
More hands are often provided by a third person who helps out in the studio which, incidentally, is a room in Eicher’s house, plunged into total darkness while the light painting photographs are being made.
As Vagner shows us a picture that is a riot of light and color, she says, “Part of our work is to highlight the abstract nature of light, the beauty of light in all of its various forms. This is a picture of light hitting a glass. It’s done with a flashlight, with the light is hitting the glass.”
To create color and texture for the light, the two artists use little odds and ends they buy everywhere and anywhere, such as plastic tubes and colored paper from toy stores, and aluminum foil from supermarkets.
“There is no Photoshop here,” says Eicher. “The camera is stationary, and we move things around by hand.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cameras that Vagner uses to take these pictures, with long exposures that freeze the moving light into non-moving still photographs, are top-of-the-line and very advanced.
“I use very high quality equipment, a Nikon D5, a Nikon D4S, and Canon 5D Mark 5, because I also do weddings,” she says. “I bought the Nikon D5 just a couple of months ago. It cost NIS 27,000, and that’s just the body of the camera, no lenses.”
As far the resultant art is concerned, the money seems to have been well spent. These cameras are able to catch the movement of light in ways the naked eye simply cannot see.
Vagner and Eicher call their light painting partnership “Sketchlight.” The word sounds very much like ‘catch light,’ which they say is not a mere coincidence.
“Catching the light as it moves is what we are trying to do,” says Vagner, and both say that the effects they end up with are often accidental and better than what they were trying to achieve.
Although there are other light painters around the world – enough to have a 200-member organization called the Light Painting World Alliance – Vagner and Eicher are, in effect, the only ones light painting in Israel. Their recent exhibition of 32 photographs at the Ben Ami Gallery on Hahashmal Street in Tel Aviv was not only their first, but the first exhibition of light painting in this country. The two look forward to many more creations and exhibitions in the years ahead.
Eicher sums up the pair’s technologically complicated creative process.
“We buy things, wave them in the dark, take pictures and see what we get.”
We wish them continued inspired success.