Issue 1

Playing with the Ring of Fire Painted light brings Sydney’s Sculptures-by-the-Sea alive

The coastal walk along Sydney’s Bondi to Tamarama beaches showcases over 50 works of international artists, weaved conspicuously across the iconic beach shoreline. This surreal playground of weird, wonderful, beautiful and oddball goes by the name of Sculptures By the Sea – an open-air exhibition, which has been luring Sydney-siders and guests out as the summer returns for the last 19 years.


This year, I decided to explore the sculptures in a different light – painted light, to be exact – at a light painting photography workshop run by Jo Langtry and Jay Evans. Just before sundown, Jo, Jay and a team of very, very dedicated photographers gathered at Tamarama equipped with cameras, tripods, light saber-esque torches and some steel wool and egg beaters (will explain that one later). And snacks (I get hungry).

I was a novice on all accounts – I hadn’t yet seen the sculptures in the daylight, and I’d never been light painting before. It was quite a strange experience lugging around my equipment in pitch black, not really quite sure what I was pointing my camera at, and not really sure what to make of Jo and Jay as they moved around the sculptures with their light sabres and torches in the cool night air. I whispered to one of the other photographers, “I wonder what people think we’re doing right now.” He replied, “Yeah, photographers are kind of weird.”

Sydney’s Sculptures by the Sea in Painted Light

Weird – and beautifully so. As soon as I clicked my shutter closed I saw just how beautiful that weird was. Jo and Jay were artful, strategic and generous. They had mapped the course, selected artworks and light painting techniques that brought the sculptures alive, even at night, deserted by the crowds. When a shot wasn’t quite right, they experimented with different equipment, different settings, different ‘dances’ of light.

My favourite technique was what I like to call the Ring of Fire, and Jo and Jay saved it for the very end of the shoot with the more ‘epic’ sculptures. Essentially you tie an egg beater to a rope, stuff the egg beater with steel wool, light the steel wool and swing it around your head. It sounds like something MacGyver made up and I was happy to be part of it. It’s always a pleasure to stroll around the sculptures in the daylight, but thanks to Jo and Jay I got to experience a new perspective of the artworks, ignited at night.

(Photos by the author.)

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