Photographer Jeremy Cowart has created the ‘Lightograph.’ Cowart calls his patent-pending creation ‘the next evolution of the photograph’ and states that the Lightograph is ‘the evolution of light through a still photograph.’
Cowart points out that a Lightograph is not a motion picture because the subject is not moving. However, it’s not quite a still photograph because the light evolves in the Lightograph. ‘With this breakthrough, light can now tell more than one story. It forever changes what’s possible in portraiture.’
A finished Lightograph may look at first like a cinemagraph, but Cowart says it’s different. ‘I actually did the entire [Lightograph] process in 2014 but didn’t realize what I had on my hands until now,’ Cowart told PetaPixel. ‘It wasn’t until the NFT boom over the last couple of months that made me start digging harder, wondering how I could bring motion to photographs and portraits.’
To Cowart’s knowledge, his process is unique and has never been done before, at least not with portrait photography. There’s no use of CGI or 3D graphics in the process. ‘This is truly a new method of art-making and analog photography,’ Cowart says, ‘Light can now tell multiple stories in a single image. It can show the hero and villain side of a person in the same portrait with a simple shift of light. Humans are multi-faceted. We’re constantly changing and evolving.’
There’s an inherent dynamism to a Lightograph. In a single Lightograph, the entire mood and emotion in a scene can dramatically shift with changing light. Light changes temperature, direction, and much more. Cowart also says that the process can be used for more than portraiture, with possible applications in commercial, lifestyle, fine art, fashion, beauty, editorial, travel, headshots, automotive, stock, architecture and more.
While the Lightographs are fascinating to look at with portraiture, the process could also have implications for advertising and marketing. Cowart says ‘I see it as the future of digital media. So, magazine covers for example. Future issues of any magazine could have Lightographs as their covers […] Imagine driving past a digital billboard and the light changes completely in those three seconds that you drive past it […] Netflix movie posters could be Lightographs that evolve as you sit on your couch and scroll through movie titles.’
Cowart believes the Lightograph is a significant development in photography. He was inspired by cinemagraphs, as they took an established tradition and changed it, something that is challenging to do with a medium like photography. ‘I’ve spent thousands of hours in my studio over the last decade playing with my Profoto strobes and Canon DSLRs. It’s so cool that all that play-time has translated to an innovation like this,’ Cowart said to PetaPixel.
If you want to make your own Lightographs, the process is quite technical and detailed, as you might imagine. Cowart offers a paid tutorial in which he covers every step of the process.
It’s difficult to say how long each Lightograph takes to create, as many variables are at play. For photographers with extensive experience, particularly with lighting, may learn quickly. There are nuances and subtleties to the process that could prove challenging to grasp at first.