In early 2015 light painting artist, Peter Solness, worked with ICE to engage men living in the Urana Street Housing Estate, Villawood, through a project aptly called Illuminate. Here are some thoughts from Peter and Project Producer, Christian Tancred on the process.
Peter: In October 2014 I was fortunate enough to get a volunteer placement with ICE (Information Cultural Exchange), a Community arts organisation based in Parramatta. I had landed on my feet. This was the ideal collaboration to take my ideas about light painting into the community services sector through an experienced and committed team of professionals who would guide me through the maze of protocols and considerations required to realise such a project.
Christian: When I first met Pete I knew he had the right disposition for community cultural development. To be honest it didn’t much matter to me if he used a pinhole camera. What was important was how he could engage with the participants.
Peter: Beyond the aesthetic value of the light painting process, I have also been drawn to its potential value in areas of art therapy and creative development. Such enthusiastic responses got me thinking about how this sense of magic could be re-employed in areas of self-development and personal expression, particularly within the community services sector.
Christian: When the lights go out there is a certain tense trust. The darkness forces you to trust those in the room. Peter moves slowly, methodically and gently explains every step of the light painting process. This builds the trust amongst the participants. It feels like a real team effort and everybody has their own role to play.
Peter: I have always seen myself as a photographer who wishes to create considered photographs, which are not just good to look at but hopefully can have a social, cultural or even spiritual value. At the core of my artistic drive is the desire to honour my subjects, be it landscape, tree, person, community etc. etc. It is a sentiment that has led me on an unconventional career path.
Christian: It surprised me how quickly the participants came to understand the process, which is actually a very advanced photographic technique. The guys began to take control of their stories, expressing them through their stance and posture in the portraits. Most of the stories relate to cultural identity but also dreams and aspirations – proud moments from the past. This is how the guys still see themselves, even though the pressure of social isolation has taken a great personal toll.
Illuminate – Portraits From Urana Street opens 1pm Thursday 3rd September at the Fruit Cocktail Shop, Villawood Place, Villawood and runs until 1st October.