[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] Reid Godshaw & Harmonic Light Take Festival Photography To The Next Level
Attendees of festivals are no strangers to the colored, dazzling, glowing, blinking, flashing, neon lights that come out in every shape and variety once the sun goes down. Nowadays, it’s a staple to see at festivals, and without them it might feel a bit empty at your local stage. And anyone who has tried to photograph those lights at night can either attest to the frustratingly difficult task or tout their brilliant one-off shot of glowing perfection.
Reid Godshaw, founder of Harmonic Light, has taken those shining moments of time and crafted a creative technique that places his subjects in the middle of gloriously stunning stories, told through light. Using what he’s learned over the years, Reid is now a familiar face on the festival scene, using the dark canvas of night to paint bold, and often, seriously trippy photos. As you scroll through some of Reid’s favorite selects of 2016 so far, keep in mind that these photos came straight out of his camera, and have not been edited in any way. Enjoy
TSAS: We are huge fans of your work, but some people out there might not know what it is exactly you do. Can you briefly explain to someone who has never experienced Harmonic Light what it is?
RG: Harmonic Light is a Customized Long Exposure Photographic Experience. Participants are asked a series of questions to get a feel for their tastes and then asked to pick a position that represents their personality! Using those answers, our observations, and your position, we create a piece of art that embodies the person.
TSAS: How did you get started playing with light paintings?
RG: I have always been a really big nerd! Reading tech sites, reviews, gadgets, hacks, all sorts of web stories and videos all the time. Once in a while I would see a news story showing a cool new light painting someone created, and i was enthralled by the fact you could create such crazy looking imagery without any editing – using only things I loved anyway! LIGHTS!
One day I decided I had to actually try it. We got out my roommate’s (Dan Benson) DSLR and started playing around with lighters and LED light up party toys, Disco balls, and lasers. Within only a couple hours of playing around I was hooked… Once in a while these phenomenon would occur that weren’t originally intended, but with each one I learned more and more about what was possible, and how to create these phenomenon in the future on purpose.
TSAS: What can you tell someone getting ready to sit in/experience one of your paintings so that they get the best experience possible?
RG: Relax, be yourself. Throw out your everyday “I’m having my photo taken” face. Start fresh and really think about our questions. And be as YOU as you can possibly be'Relax, be yourself... Start fresh.' -Reid Godshaw Click To Tweet
TSAS: Was there a specific moment when you knew that light painting is what you wanted to pursue as a career?
RG: After experimenting for a few weeks with our friends, me and Dan Benson decided to purchase a new DSLR and start having some fun with friends at parties, etc… When we got our new camera (Canon t3i), we were shooting one of my good friends, Kim Hidalgo, and we created this awesome shot (pictured below). I think it was Kim that said, “Wow, you should do this for a job!” And I said “…Hahah. There’s no such thing as doing this for a job!” And kind of trailed off… thinking… What if there was such a thing?…
After going to a few Burning Mans already, I had seen that art could be anything, and people dedicated their lives to creating all sorts of things that many wouldn’t think were possible to turn into a livelihood.
I realized if I loved it, and everyone who experienced it loved it, then there was no doubt that it was possible.
After about two years of practice that was a true statement. So I had literally no other choice but to do everything I could to make it real. I dropped everything and spent every penny I ever made on lights! Some of which worked great for light painting, others… not so much!
TSAS: Given your art is so interactive and you get to engage with your subjects, can you describe one of your most magical moments of human interaction?
RG: Wow! So many magical moments. To pick just one… I can say the moments that are the most magical are the moments when the subjects have no clue what is happening, but they just TRUST ME.
Sometimes I ask people if they want a photo, sometimes (more often) I ask them if they want to make some art, other times I ask them if they want to be abducted by an alien!? But it’s far less common that I hold out examples of images to convince someone to take a seat and get their photo taken. I aim to find the person who is willing to be a part of the (totally free) experience without me working to justify its value!
The BEST is when they just trust me. They take a seat and they answer my questions and just trust that it’s going to be awesome. That this random person who appeared out of nowhere is going to do something worth stopping and blindly listening to instructions for.
60 seconds later the process is over, and likely, the very first Harmonic Light image they see is the one I just created OF THEM!!!!!! So I would have to say my favorite moments are those moments – where the trust of a random stranger pays off in a way they get to remember forever!
TSAS: What have been some of the biggest obstacles/breakdowns you’ve faced exploring this style of photography?
RG: Well… LIGHTING! Getting the venue to assure there is a dark enough spot for me to shoot, that the stage lights don’t randomly ruin images, that I can even shoot with the amount of ambient light in the room – bright lights are both the love of my life and the bane of my existence
As well as finding paid events and shoots! It’s tough! I Cover many events for free, and I love what I do! So sometimes it’s really difficult to tell organizers that I cant just do it for free, even though I know I might enjoy doing so!
TSAS: What have been some of the biggest breakthroughs?
RG: Almost 4 years ago I e-mailed a man named Jeremiah after seeing some of his LED contraptions online. I was hoping he could make me a custom LED wand that could enable me to create art on a whole new level. I was hopeful, but didn’t really expect a response or a yes. I got more than a yes. I got an astounding absolutely! And the creation he made for me changed the direction of my life single handedly. I am eternally grateful for that.
TSAS: How has music inspired your work?
RG: I have always loved music. I play the djembe and the Tongue Drum, and more recently I have finally acquired a Handpan. In my work, there is no doubt an element of timing, pacing, and even a tiny bit of dance. No doubt the music playing in the venue I’m shooting at has a sliding scale of influence on the work I create.
TSAS: What is your favorite music to light paint to? A favorite artist?
RG: Random Rab. Hands down. LOVED Random Rab – “Awoke”. Soooo Good. [I] Was lucky enough to take his portrait at A-Bun-Dance a while back.
TSAS: If you could live light paint on stage with any musician in the world, who would it be?
RG: Random Rab or Sigur Ros! Love them both. Dream show = both of them
TSAS: One night while working, you discover a brand new color no human as ever seen before. What do you name the color?
TSAS: Do you remember the first photograph you ever took?
RG: I remember the first light painting session I ever took part in. It was In my living room with friends. Setup the camera, set it to [between] 10-30 seconds, and played around with anything in our house we had that made light! Lighters, lasers, flashlights… all sorts of stuff.
TSAS: What’s the best advice you were ever given? Do you have any advice for up and coming photographers looking to break into the scene?
RG: Best advice I was ever given? Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.
My Advice? Learn what you can, but do what you feel. Put yourself out there.'My Advice? Learn what you can, but do what you feel. Put yourself out there.' -Reid GodshawClick To Tweet
TSAS: In 100 years, how do you want your art to be remembered?
I would want to be remembered by the mission of my work:
Sure Photoshop is a great tool – a beautiful art form – and it can be totally invaluable for many forms of photography. Let me clue you in on a secret: I used to LOVE Photoshop, and used it all the time… But after a while of shooting light paintings I realized with a long exposure in the dark, there are INFINITE possibilities. I would argue there are MORE possibilities with long exposures than with the entirety of tools within Photoshop! Because nearly ANYTHING you can do in Photoshop you can also figure out a way to do in REALITY with timing, tools, creativity, and Ingenuity. But with Photoshop you are only limited to the tools you are GIVEN. In reality, there are billions of possibilities for brushes, tools, methods, and tricks. Reality is INFINITE!