2015, Single-channel video, b/w, 16:9, English spoken, 12 min, Laser camera, flatscreen TV, light boxes

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Curious about creating a new image quality, I made a digital camera. A very simple one. Instead of using a complex sensor to capture the whole image in a fraction of a second, it builds up the image pixel by pixel by making one simple measurement at a time. The camera starts at the top left corner and works its way to the bottom right one, just as you are reading this text. To get the information for each position, the camera shoots a short pulse of laser light towards its subject and waits for the light-echo to return. It is then able to find the distance between itself and the object that reflected the light. The collected measurements do not show anything recognisable yet. The data has to be translated first in order to be visible as a greyscale image.

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With an exposure time of four days (and up to four weeks), it is not the most practical camera around, but it allows me to work directly with the building blocks of the picture itself. The resulting images are digital by nature, yet the visual resemblance with prints from the early days of photography is striking. Whereas the conventional camera is a darkroom that captures light, this camera is more like a lighthouse. Since every point in the image is a distance measurement, the image becomes a map.

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The video is a slideshow of scenes and letters. The letters are selected from an archive of the correspondence of William Henry Fox Talbot, a pioneer in negative-positive photography. Early experiments with the Lightkeeping camera were done in and around the house, but gradually other places were chosen, some for their visual quality, others for their connection with light, time and the context of the archive.

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Six light boxes display the raw image data as scatter-plots. These plots were used during the development of the project to get insight into the camera’s measurements. As in-between images they can be both seen as pictures and read as charts.

Concept & realisation: Elias Heuninck
Voice-over: Emi Kodama
Letters: 'The Correspondence of William Henry Fox Talbot' project
Technical assistance: Culture Crew & Vincent Jacobs
Editing coaches: Fairuz & Anouk De Clercq
Production: Werktank & Auguste Orts
With the support of the Flemish community

Lightkeeping is currently on display at Emergent Gallery. On until 07/01/2024.

Lightkeeping has been shown at
Studio 3 Gallery, Kent University, Cambridge (UK), September 27 - December 12, 2019 (installation in group exhibition "Leading Light")
Rencontres Internationales, Berlin (DE), June 23, 2018 - (screening)
Festival of Animated Film, Stuttgart (DE), April 27, 2018 - (screening)
Festival Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin, Paris (FR), April 15, 2018 - (screening)
Videomedeja film festival, Novi Sad, (Serbia), September 22 - 24, 2017 - (screening)
Visite film festival, Antwerp (BE), August 15, 2017 - (Screening Lightkeeping & I'll be late for dinner)
New Technological Art Award, Ghent (BE), November 5 - December 4, 2016 - (installation in group exhibition "Update_6")
X-Ray: Time, KASKCinema Ghent (BE), September 10, 2016 - (screening)
BOZAR Electronic Arts Festival, Brussels (BE), September 22 - October 2, 2016 - (installation in group exhibition "Tendencies")
New Horizons IFF, Wroclaw (PL), July 26, 2016 - (screening)
Flatpack Film Festival, Birmingham (UK), April 23, 2016 - (screening)
Cinematek, Brussels (BE), April 13, 2016 - (screening)
FOKUS, Copenhagen (DK), Februari 11 - March 6, 2016 - (screening)
IFFR, Rotterdam (NL), January 31 and February 6, 2016 - (screening)
25FPS, Zagreb (HR), September 25, 2015 - (screening)
iMal, Brussels (BE), November 27 - December 18, 2015 - (installation in group exhibition 'The State of Things')