24. Mar 2017

The fascination of traffic lights in foggy darkness.

Text: Jo-Eike Vormittag
Photos: Lucas Zimmermann

Beams of light reaching out across the dark and misty night sky are not only a fascinating spectacle that arouses wonder. This effect is the result of a combination of different qualities of light. To become “visible”, light – natural or electric – needs to be reflected by a surface: in the case of fog by the endless tiny particles of mist. We are able to see and enjoy this phenomenon thanks our visual perception. The human eye comprises around 130 million sensory cells: rods, which enable us to differentiate between black, white and grey and support our vision at dusk and during the night, and cones, which enable us to perceive colour.

And still our eyes seem to meet their limits when viewing phenomena such as light in fog, given that our eyes receive a mass of visual stimuli continuously during all our waking hours. It therefore sometimes occurs that we overlook things in the environment in which we find ourselves. The images taken by photographer Lucas Zimmermann aim to address this very issue. Using a simple photographic set-up, he is able to capture a classic object on film and underscore the astounding effect this can generate in an unnatural situation, opening our minds to encompass more of the world around us.

The light emitted by traffic lights, which are only switched on in a particular colour for a limited period of time, played a central role in one particular series of photos of his. His images show traffic lights in a dark, foggy environment, rendered in a completely new way to surprise, or even astonish, the onlooker. All we see in the long exposure images is the road and the crossing with the traffic lights in red, amber and green, their light emitted as a visible beam gradually spreading out into the darkness to provide a diffuse blanket of light. The tiny particles of mist transport light and colour into the night, away from the crossing and along the road, until they are finally swallowed up by the darkness. Lights off.

Performance: Lucas Zimmermann


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