Seeking the Light – Artist Statement

With the appearance of the light, the universe expanded. With the concealment of the light, the things that exist were created in all their variety. This is the mystery of the act of Creation. One who understands will understand.”

Rabbi Shim’on Lavi
Seeking the Light, No 82, Aric Attas 2013

The photographs in my series Seeking the Light are inspired by descriptions of what the beginning of the universe(s) may have looked like. While the physicist uses theories such the Big Bang theory, relativity and quantum theory, the mystic uses prayer, meditation and letter permutations, I engage the tools of photography to explore this mystery.

Using ideas from modern physics and ancient Kabbalah as a point of departure I begin by photographing a multi-faceted reflective object in my studio under different lighting. Through photographic techniques such as long exposure, under or over exposure and camera motion I am able to paint with light and shadow. These strategies allow me to transform ordinary subject matter into something extraordinary.

Creating long exposures while moving the camera also prevents me from fully knowing what the images will look like before they appear on the screen. The added element of surprise further fuels my curiosity. As the photos emerge on screen I select the those in which shapes seem to be forming and/or dissolving. I also look for images with an ethereal sense of space or suggestion of movement. The surprises I discover spark new ideas which I develop further as I work.

Physicists describe the very early universe as being so hot and dense that matter and energy were fused, unable to separate from one another. Not even light could escape. The Kabbalists say that the primordial light was so bright it obscured creation. It was not until that light was partially concealed that the entirety of creation was revealed. These ideas fascinate me and drive my explorations. The resulting photographs are ethereal, full of light and shadow, depth and movement while evoking a sense of peace and wholeness.

When light flashed forth, time and space began. But the early universe was an undifferentiated blend of energy and matter. How did matter emerge? The mystic writes that the light was concealed. A scientist would say that energy congealed. Matter is frozen energy.”

Daniel C. Matt