Light painting provides so many creative opportunities, and we’ve seen plenty of stunning images in this technique so far. French photographer Fabrice Wittner merged light painting with and stencils and created a series of complex and unusual portraits. They all look otherworldly and mystical – and they were all painted with light.
Fabrice’s project is named Northern Lights – L’Âme du Nord. He describes it as “an invitation to step into the polar night and the traditional world of Inuits.” This photo series is a part of a bigger project named ATKA. This project took him to Greenland, where he was giving workshops about photography, cyanotype, and light painting to kids.
But the Northern Lights series has a specific goal. It aims to raise awareness about the issues local populations of polar areas are facing due to globalization and global warming. “Many polar ethnic groups are upholding their traditional activities while adapting to a modern lifestyle,” Fabrice explains. “However, ethnological research shows that northern societies are undergoing a drastic transformation.”
“Radical changes of the social, demographic and economic balance have been threatening the cultural identity of these populations for several decades. Globalization is not the only threat to their future and their identities. According to many climate expectations, the relentless and complete melting of the sea ice will continue in the Arctic until its full disappearance between 2040 and 2050. A frighteningly close deadline.”
Fabrice adds that “Inuits from Greenland and North American continent, Sames from Northern Europe and ethnic groups from Siberia will be on the front line of global warming.” It’s frightening to think that they will be the first climate refugees. Fabrice writes that “only their memory and the spirits of their ancestors will remain on their lands,” and it’s a scary and devastating thought.
To help raise awareness of this issue, Fabrice relied on art. When traveling from France to Grenland, he brought with him a dozen of pre-cut leatherette stencils. He used Inuit archive photos from the early XX century for the cutouts. Fabrice made sure to follow the ecological values of his project. So, he made everything himself from recycled or second-hand materials.
When I first saw his images, I tried to figure out how they were taken. Basically, Fabrice carefully cut out each stencil and mounted it onto a large softbox so it’s backlit. He would shoot a long exposure photo and fire the flash to create the light-pained portrait.
The result is a series of eerie, mystical images. When I first saw them, I thought how fragile these portraits seemed, as if they could disappear from the photo any second. And when I thought of the background of this project… It gave me chills. Fabrice’s goal was to show the fragility of Inuits due to global warming, and in my opinion, he achieved it perfectly.
Take a look at more photos below, along with some BTS shots that will make it clearer how this stunning project was done. Make sure to check out more of Fabrice’s work on his website and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Behance.
Behind the scenes