How I Learned the Study of Light

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“Light – (noun) The natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible.”

As a New Yorker, I learned the hard way that light equals sanity. As a photographer, I was able to channel my love for light into stills. I’ve had a love for “good light” for as long as I can remember, but I’d never studied it. I’ve thought about it, sure, when using artificial light. Or when noticing a beam of light coming around a sharp corner. Or admiring it on a crisp morning. Or when choosing the time of day to shoot outdoors. But I’d never spent time examining it.

That’s exactly what I decided to do when I arrived for an art residency in Oaxaca, Mexico, a week ahead of me without any ideas of what to actually focus on. I would wake up early and go for walks to get a feel for the city and think about the project I wanted to work on. Before I knew it, I was waking up specifically to watch the light creep over the city. I spent the week wandering the streets at first light, high afternoon and the late afternoon into the magic hour of twilight. I was in awe of the angles of the harsh shadows, light and shadow wrapping around beautiful old architecture.

Later, I began to notice other things. Like in the mornings, with the chill still in the air from the previous night, morning activity taking place on the sunny side of the street for warmth. Or in the afternoons, when the heat became unbearable, I noticed how life slowed down. People taking breaks in the shade at the Zócalo. Unmoving, observing, relaxing in the cool shade. Or in the early evenings when the streets were refilled with life as people settled into that comfort that the end of a day brings.

I left Oaxaca with a new appreciation of not only how light dictates art, but how it shapes our day-to-day experiences.

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