Stephen Knight | May 15, 2020 | 0
Light Paint Box – LUX Helsinki 2018
Light Paint Box – LUX Helsinki 2018
In the beginning of January every year there is a big light festival here in Finland, LUX Helsinki. Inspired by other light festivals around the world ( I believe Fete des Lumieres in Lyon was the first one…) the idea is to light up the city for 5 days in the middle of the darkest period of the winter.
For those who don’t really know much about Finland, I think there are two main words that can describe the situation: dark and cold… During the “Polar night” or “Kaamos” which is the period around the winter solstice there are places in Finland above the arctic circle that the sun don’t come up at all… for a month or so… Of course here in Helsinki, the situation is not that bad and there is sun coming up ( somewhere behind the clouds usually.. ) for some hours each day. Maybe now you understand why this light festival, which is organised by the City of Helsinki, was born.
I have been working as a lighting guy for this festival already some years ago and its since I was involved with light painting already I was always thinking how nice it would be to have some sort of light painting activities in. In 2017 we started the LightPaintBox project and this seemed like a perfect moment to approach the festival and see if we could do something there.
After talking to one of the curators of the festival I saw there is interest from their side, and he told me that they will contact me. I had in mind to set up a Light Paint Box somewhere along the festival route, preferably indoors cause the normal weather conditions are usually -20 degrees Celsius at this time of year. In our team of artists, we had already 3 people, Janne Parviainen, Hannu Huhtamo and myself so we could do the 5 days of the festival easily.
Challenge accepted – getting the team
It was my surprise when I got a call from the festival, telling me that they want to have 3 boxes at the same time in the main square of Helsinki, where the main light installation always takes place! The place is always overcrowded and they wanted us to be right in the center of this! That was a challenge… one that there was no way I could refuse!
Almost instantly I knew what I needed to do. Its been a dream of mine for some time now, to be able to work with light painting. Having a global network of light painters who can cooperate not only for congresses, exhibitions, meetups and fun but also for commercial works. I know this has been happening for some time now with some of the top guys in the lp world, but this was my first opportunity.
I decided to try to get 3 more artists to help us with this project. They needed to have great skills, experience in light painting portraits and to be able to do this quite fast too, because of the number of people who were gonna be waiting in line was expected to be big… the festival was expected to attract around 500.000 visitors…
My choices were made pretty fast I have to say… I contacted Cisco, Frodo Alvarez DKL and MASS . All of them are great light painters with a lot of experience in photocalls.Although I have met before in person only Frodo, I was sure we ‘ll get along with everyone just fine. And so it went… They were all really enthusiastic about the idea and agreed to join us on this. Unfortunately, because of the time it took to finalise the deal with the festival, MASS had to take another gig and informed me that he wouldn’t be able to do this after all. The solution came pretty fast, and after contacting another great artist DAWN, our team was finally set!
Putting the pieces together
Working for almost 20 years in events I have learned one thing for sure… It takes time and effort to produce something properly. So after we said we are doing this and have set the team, it was time for production work. A good month of meetings, ideas, tests etc. From finding solutions for the actual construction to heating issues, limited space and layout, logistics, finding a way to queue the people so they don’t need to wait so much, the challenges were many. Fortunately, with the help of Suneffects the company organising the festival for the city of Helsinki, we managed to solve everything on time.
We decided to have 3 containers, internally modified to host a dark studio and an entrance space each. We decorated them with a lot of light bulbs from the outside and the whole thing ended up looking pretty cool! The containers proved to be a good idea, cause even we were very lucky with the weather, (usual temperatures this time are around -20 ..) it was still pretty cold, ranging from -1 to – 5 the whole time…
Check this video of the great video mapping installation there. ( those 3 boxes with the bulbs in front of the church it’s us..! )
Stay still …don’t move!!
So after setting up the whole thing and having some demo shoots for the press the day before, the time has finally come! The date was 6th of January and it was the first “show day”. At 17:00 the people were already lined up waiting .. and they started coming.. The first day, the 4 hours went by without having any sense of time or even a break to go pee .. 😛
“Don’t Move !! Stay still!! ” was amongst the most used phrases during the 5 days! It even became a hashtag by some of the visitors when they were sharing their images on Instagram.Followed by laughter when we were telling them they can relax and the image was done.
We had 2 artists in each box. One of the “Finnish” ones and one of the “guests” so we could communicate with all possible nationalities of the visitors. Each day, me Janne and Hannu would swap places to make it more interesting and to get to work with different artists. This was one of the best parts of doing this whole thing for us. Working together with other artists for the first time is a great experience. There is so much stuff you can learn from another person when you see him in action. From ways of lighting to new ideas, to tools… ( oh .. the tools… 😛 ) to the whole attitude towards the lp… This was a great lesson and inspiration for all of us. As Cisco said some evening while having some drinks, “improving your skills comes especially when you have to do something… when there is no option to stop .. you have to do no matter what… ”
Another hit was the “May I set you on fire? ” that Frodo started. People were looking us weird in the beginning but their response after were great. Many people after a day or two were coming and asking themselves to be set on fire!
The greatest reward for me it was the faces of the people. So many smiling faces, coming out of the boxes laughing, hugging and thanking the hostesses … It was great! If you consider also that usually Finns are no so open when you first get to know them, I think we did a great job warming them up and putting smiles on their faces.
Check this video slideshow of some of the images we created during the 5 days there…
Here are some images of some of the installations of the festival we managed to see … there were some more but we only had one hour free for one day due to our program…
Of course, despite our busy schedule , Frodo DKL, who is one of the most passionate light painters I ‘ve ever met, found some time to do some lp rotations of the exterior of our LightPaintBoxes… great stuff!!
after the last day was done and we got all the gear packed and sent to the studio it was time for the final party… We agreed to go to Janne’s studio that all the guys wanted so much to see in person. A place, as Frodo said, which has a place in light painting history … if you think how many great artworks were created there… Was great fun and of course, there cannot be a light painters party without some playing around…
After 5 days of 4 hours non stop light painting each day we managed to create over 1700 unique images, getting almost 4500 people their portraits and through social media sharing over 230000 people reach! Not bad I would say! Everyone was happy, the City of Helsinki, the festival organizers, OP Helsinki who was our sponsors and made this possible, and of course all the people who came and got their portraits. Light Paint Box was a success!!
Even got some interest from a couple of other light festivals… Hopefully, this can be a kick starter to spread Light Painting to even wider audiences at festivals all around the world!
Thanks again to everyone that took part in this… Best team ever: Cisco, Dawn, Frodo DKL, Hannu Huhtamo, Janne Parviainen… you guys rock! It was an honor, a school , a great experience and much fun to do this altogether.
Special shout out to Frodo for providing most of the images for this post.
Big thanks to the City of Helsinki, Suneffects, and OP Helsinki for having us there. Huge thanks also to everybody who despite the cold came and made this a great experience for all of us!