Darren Pearson: The Light Expert

January 04, 2016

Light-art photographer and painting artist Darren Pearson has transformed the way we look at photography and light exposure. We have posted about his work many times on the site and on our social channels, but haven't ever had the chance to talk to him about his process. When we saw that his work was part of Apple's "Start Something New" campaign, we took the time to sit down with Darren to talk about trying his process out with his iPhone and Apple Watch.

For the particular project with Apple, called "Tree of Light," Darren “sketches” his work midair with a handheld light, taking long-exposure photos with the NightCap Pro app on iPhone 6s Plus. And as Apple notes, the "Apple Watch acts as a viewfinder throughout the process, giving Darren a live preview of his drawing as it takes shape." We note in the gallery above about which piece in particular "Tree of Light" is. 

As Darren says of his work, "My work is a combination of illustration and photography; an art form which is not confined to canvas, but allows nocturnal environments to become the backdrop, an LED light to become the paintbrush, and long exposure photography to capture the painting. Most of my light-paintings relate to humanity, ecosystems, and natural history because I'm fascinated by these universal contexts. By painting these subjects, I'm not conforming to any particular race or gender, because we all have skeletons that propel our bodies through space and time. It's the spirit that counts."

Darren Apple 1

Here is our interview with Darren... 

Juxtapoz: One of the things that interests me about your work is the chicken or the egg aspect of it: were you a painter first or a photographer first?
Darren Pearson: I was an illustrator first, photographer second.

When did your begin to explore the realm of what you do now? Was there a genesis that you look back on and say "at this point, I started working with LED lights and long-exposure?"
It stems from the 'Picasso Draws a Centaur' photograph - I saw that image and it made me re-think my idea of modern photography as a lazy person's artform. The photographer can physically make art happen in front of the lens while the photograph is being taken, I wanted to expand on what Picasso had started back in 1949.

For you, what are the best nights to shoot?
Full Moon or New Moon. A full moon will showcase the environment whereas a new moon lets the stars shine bright, unimpeded.

And, just give us a rundown of what the process of a shoot really is?
A shoot for me is researching a location via satellite, checking the weather, moon/star phase, doing some pre-sketches, hopping in a car, and possibly camping near the spot. I try to scout locations before the sun sets so I know potential hazards and get a general vibe of the environment.

The actual shoot is a bit of trial and error. I get the night scene first, then dial in a composition with simple light-shapes, then I perform the light-art, which can come easy or difficult depending on the subject and luck.

Darren Apple 2

Do you have favorites?
I favor the ones with beginners luck: Rainbow Plesiosaur, Chameleon, Yurtles - all made with different LED prototypes used for the first time.

How does your iPhone fit into this?
I use a DSLR camera for most of my work, but I think the success of light-art as a medium depends on accessibility and understanding - people should know that you don't need an expensive DSLR camera to create a solid light-painting.

Over the past months I've used an iPhone + long exposure app (NightCap Pro) to create a photo series. This is to encourage others to try out drawing with light for themselves, anyone can do it. The process is fun to try with friends or family.

What are you looking forward to working on in 2016?
I'm looking forward to releasing a new version of the LED tool that I self manufacture/use for light-painting - 'Night-Writer' (v2) will be less of a collectible and more of a refined product. The new Night-Writer will give users precise control of the light spectrum while illustrating.

"Get Inspired to Start Something New" takes place on Thursday, January 7, 6 pm at the Apple Store on West 14th Street

Join us for a special evening with artists Tiffany Bozic, Jake Sargeant, William Hundley, Greg Barth, and Bernhard Lang. Hear these talented illustrators, digital artists, and photographers discuss their work with moderator Evan Pricco, Editor of Juxtapoz Magazine. And see how they use iPhone, iPad, and Mac—along with great apps and accessories—to produce their art. Then get up close with each of them to ask questions and learn about techniques that can help you create your own amazing art.