He says when he started light photography, he had no specific business goals. He started it as a hobby.
He also had no clue about the skills required to become a lighting painting artist.
Didn’t know how the science behind it.
Didn’t know the basics of photography.
Or even the tools involved. Like most others, he at first mistook light painting photography at first for computer graphics.
Fast forward 5 years, he is a Guinness world record holder in light painting, TEDx speaker, runs a successful boutique wedding studio and also gets paid for his passion, light painting.
Say hello to Jeswin Rebello.
Note: In this post, I am ditching the Q&A style and moving towards a story based approach. Also because I know Jeswin personally. He is a good friend and a professional who I have collaborated with.
Here’s how it all started.
Jeswin’s accidental entry into Light painting…
Light painting, or light drawing, is a photographic technique in which exposures are made by moving a hand-held light source while taking a long exposure photograph, either to illuminate a subject or to shine a point of light directly at the camera, or by moving the camera itself during exposure. The technique is used for both scientific and artistic purposes, as well as in commercial photography. Light painting has long inspired photographers with the technique capturing a moving light source whilst taking a long exposure photograph which is difficult to perfect but can produce exciting results. — Wikipedia
During his 3rd year in college, he once went to a race track in Coimbatore with his friends. As someone who is interested in photography, he started clicking pictures of the race.
When he clicked pictures of those fast bikes, he noticed a tail like a thing similar to the ones you see at the end of comets. This caught his attention and he started researching in detail to understand more about it.
It was during this research that he got to know about Light painting. The more he read about it, the more he liked it. And he started diving in deeper and deeper.
Once he gained the interest, he did whatever he could to learn the craft. He even perfected his photography skills to understand the technicalities of Light painting.
Jeswin recalls how he saved his pocket money to buy his first DSLR just to try out Light painting.
Just when he felt that he had found his true calling, his dad passed away and he had to shoulder the family responsibility.
So he joined his brother to take care of his dad’s business. The blessing in disguise was that light painting has to be done in the dark. So he used to work in his dad’s office in the mornings and then experiment with light painting during the nights.
These late night experiments drew a lot of contempt from his mom because he used to go home late every day. You couldn’t blame her because even now the awareness in India is very less, most of us still think light painting is a form of computer graphics.
On a lighter note, no mother would ever want her child to roam around in remote areas in search of darkness(to play with the lights).
The internet is beautiful…
After months of experimenting, he started posting a few photographs online and people quickly started taking note.
One of them was a famous photo studio in Coimbatore who saw his work and hired him as a freelancer for a wedding photo shoot.
Until this point, Jeswin says that even for a second didn’t think about the commercial value of Light painting.
The photo shoot went well. Impressed by his photography skills, the studio also took him in as a freelance photographer.
Slowly, he started making a decent amount of money from the freelance photography assignments and he decided to do it full-time.
But he did face a tough time convincing his family until he was invited to exhibit his paintings in the International Light painting exhibition. Till date, he has exhibited in Mumbai, Singapore, and China.
A famous newspaper in Tamil Nadu picked his story up and wrote a piece about him. That helped him get a lot of recognition and inbound requests.
Jeswin calls light painting as guess work. Because nobody knows how the output will look until you have recorded it and processed it.
He says, “Even the viewers looking at what the artist is drawing won’t be able to figure out what I am drawing. They will only see moving lights.”
He goes back every time to talk about the patience the craft requires. He believes that the art has changed him as a person and made him more mature.
Even now the world has only a handful of professional light painters, Jeswin estimates it to be less than 150.
Breaking the Guinness World record…
He says that the Guinness world record wouldn’t have been possible without Satwik Sharma & team.
Being a technically sound team with a great understanding of electronics, Satwik and team had earlier already attempted to break the Guinness once and failed.
To pull off a Guinness world record of this scale, they needed an artist to fill in an expertise they lacked.
That is where Jeswin fitted in.
Jeswin flew to Ambala(Haryana) to join the team.
After months of planning, preparation, failing and executing, they finally did it and submitted their entry to the Guinness.
After a six-month wait, finally it happened.
Here’s a video of their journey to the world record:
The new Skoda Octavia ad…
Magic Box production and FCB ULKA digital reached out to Jeswin to create an ad based on light painting.
Initially, they planned to do it for the Skoda Rapid special edition. But the agency had several valid reservations. Since nothing of this scale has ever been done in India before, they also didn’t have a referral point.
Even Jeswin was taken back by the execution challenges in executing their vision. He saw it as an opportunity that got away.
But as destiny would have it, a few months down the line the agency again wanted to give it a try.
Jeswin then called up his Guinness team(Satwik & Shobhit) to collaborate on the project.
Every step in the project was a new challenge in terms of technique, managing people, and resources.
Though there was this nervousness of the end result, there was also this excitement of being a part of something great, happening for the first time in India.
More than the resources, he says that it is the enthusiasm of the people that transpired in a brilliant video.
He confesses that until the very last moment they saw the output on the screen not even a single person thought that it was achievable.
Here’s the video which Jeswin and team did for Skoda: The idea was to pay homage to India’s iconic structures. Everything from the Qutub Minar to the new-age wonder Bandra Worli Sea Link! The video was released on the 15th of August.
The Future for Light painting in India…
Jeswin wants to spread awareness about the craft. He has been trying his best to spread awareness by initiating gatherings, by giving talks and conducting workshops.
He is delighted to see the interest amongst the younger generation. He feels that with awareness, a lot of people will take up light painting as a hobby if not a profession.
He also says that the entry level is low with smartphones and the free tools that are available. Beginners can start with mobile flashlights or any light writing devices available. Anyone can be a light painting artist.
In the demand side, brands like Microsoft, Nike, Red Bull, Honda, Red Bull, Volkswagen have started using light painting in their advertising.
He strongly believes that light painting is in a position where photography was a few years back. And from here he signs off by saying that the ‘the future is only going to get better.’
For more stories like this, you can subscribe to Gigeconomy’s newsletter
Learnings from Jeswin Rebello’s journey
– Learning a new skill is difficult. But stick with it and keep going. Try to implement what you have learned.
– Don’t think about the money without perfecting your skill. Jeswin did light painting as a hobby for three years before he got paid for it.
– Pursue your passion but also make sure you can put food on the table. He still works as a photographer in his own studio Signature Moments.
– Give it back. His goal now is spread awareness about the craft.
PS: If you have any questions for Jeswin, leave it in the comments below. I will make sure that he answers them.