Lichtfaktor

A team of "light painters" make jellyfish, birds and a whale appear in this dazzling video from Germany.

Painting with light has been around since the 1930s, when Man Ray used a beam and a long-exposure photograph to scrawl his signature into thin air. Picasso later fooled around with the technique for LIFE shutterbug Gjon Mili, outlining a bull and centaur (if you squint just right) inside a shadowed room.

But light painting has really come into its own with the advance of computer and optical technology. Among the throng of artists doing stunning work in this most-transient of mediums is Lichtfaktor, a photon-obsessed collective based in Cologne, Germany. Lictfaktor has used lights and long captures to produce a range of startling videos: In "Darkest Hour," a snaking beam of evil orange light stalks and kills pedestrians, while "Trauma / Face Your Fears" was inspired by PTSD caused by violence or childhood sexual abuse. Whoever thinks light-based art can't explore serious themes should watch these short films.

Then again, it doesn't have to be serious. The Lichtfaktor people delved into the lighter (hah!... eh) side of their craft with a recent collaboration with clothing company dENiZEN. The resulting video, "Shine a Light for Nature," imagines what would happen if a jailbreak occurred at a zoo for light-based lifeforms. Over four nights of work, the team blazed a menagerie of fauna over Cologne's frigid streets and parks, including a huge octopus wiggling its tentacles inside an automotive husk, a sea of jellyfish pulsing in the air and a snail whose "shell" is a discarded, cardboard box. The video won a 2012 German Web Video Award; watch it below.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of shoppers on University Avenue in East Palo Alto, California, which is flanked by two technology campuses.
    Equity

    An Island of Silicon Valley Affordability Says Yes to More Housing

    East Palo Alto is surrounded by tech riches, but that hasn’t necessarily helped longtime residents, who welcome a state law mandating zoning reform

  2. A young girl winces from the sting as she receives the polio vaccine in 1954.
    Life

    How Mandatory Vaccination Fueled the Anti-Vaxxer Movement

    To better understand the controversy over New York’s measles outbreak, you have to go back to the late 19th century.

  3. Equity

    What the Supreme Court Said About the 2020 Census Citizenship Question

    In oral arguments, conservative justices asked about data science, while liberals asked what the citizenship question was really for.

  4. A crowded room of residents attend a local public forum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
    Life

    Are Local Politics As Polarized As National? Depends on the Issue.

    Republican or Democrat, even if we battle over national concerns, research finds that in local politics, it seems we can all just get along—most of the time.

  5. A photo of single-family homes along a hillside in San Marcos, California.
    Equity

    The Political Battle Over California's Suburban Dream

    State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 50 would rewrite the state’s single-family zoning codes. What's wrong with that? A lot, say opponents.