The Fussy Eye: Naked Light

Looking at light sources.

Most good photographers are coy about their lighting sources. Where’s the sun? Hidden in gauzy clouds. How come that model’s hair seems to glow? A tiny fill light behind her provides the halo. (And there’s always Photoshop to add more highlights and warmth to any picture.) Olympia’s Adam Ekberg takes a different approach in The Arsonist’s Shadow. Flashlights beam at each other in a rickety old house, casting stark shadows. A Bic lighter flares in the lens, adorned with a little cocktail umbrella (not unlike the diffusers used in studio photography). The sun blasts through Venetian blinds, producing the concentric indoor version of a double rainbow. Ekberg is frank about illumination. In Match, pictured, a cracked tile floor recedes into darkness beyond the brief flame; what you can’t see outside the puny source light is as much a part of the composition as the dimly lit center. The ominous, encroaching shadows will soon envelop the scene, leaving only the burnt-sulfur smell and the memory of past radiance. The good times only last so long. Ekberg says of the show, “I reposition specific celebratory iconography to create minor spectacles,” including disco balls, balloons, and bubbles that children might blow on the summer grass. But there are no revelers present in these photos, only the forlorn suggestion of past festivities. 

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