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Jasper van den

Exposure Value ZERO

Project details

No practice
Honours Programme Visual Culture

The invention of electrical light renders our nights more accessible and safer, but also brighter than ever before. Among many other forms of pollution, artificial light at night sparks my curiosity as a photographer. Being aware of light levels is prevalent in photography, which makes me wonder how much light do we need at night. What is necessary or sufficient? And what is excessive or redundant night lighting? To find understanding in our use of night lighting within urban public spaces, I explored the sprawling cities Paris and London through the lens of my invented methodology and the notion of superfluousness to guide my journey.1

By minimising the control over the exposure value to a degree of zero, I pushed the medium to its boundaries and allowed the present light to flourish on the photographic emulsion— leaving the mid-tones and highlights to ‘blow out.’ This conceptual and technical methodology supports the proposition that there is a physical and direct relation between the photograph, the amount of light, and the place of occurrence. The number ‘0’ derives from a numeric scale concept used in the 1950s to simplify exposure calculations.2 I revisited the concept in which the slashed ‘zero’ denotes the absence of something.

PAR03-01, 2022, C-print Fujitrans print mounted in lightbox frame, 122x92cm

The research methodology renders light levels visible, whereas the human eye constantly adjusts to luminosity conditions— making them inaccurate for trustworthy indexations. Except for framing, cropping and selection, which I believe are integral to picture-making, no manipulation or further altering of the images is done. Far from simply producing a clear-eyed copy of reality, the photographs in my research are something closer to a qualitative expression of light.

Glass table with spotlight and slidefilm images

My exploration evidences an interest in the limits of visibility and representation– in order for a photographic image to come into being, one needs light. On the other end, an overload of light may cease the photograph to exist. In both ways, the light becomes an agent, or co-author— a technological expression, discovered rather than created. What can the photographs reveal about our bright nights that would otherwise be imperceptible to the human eye?

PAR01-09, 2022, C-print Fujitrans print mounted in lightbox frame, 122x92cm
LON02-01, 2022, C-print Fujitrans print mounted in lightbox frame, 77x57cm
PAR01-04, 2022, C-print Fujitrans print mounted in lightbox frame, 122x92cm
  1. The Latin root word is superfluus, which is used figuratively to mean “unnecessary,” but is literally “overflowing.”
  2. To make alternations in shutter speed or aperture easier, German shutter manufacturer K. Gebele invented the Exposure Value system.