Electric Legends: Stories Told in Glowing LED Lights

Imagine stepping out into a foggy morning and seeing hundreds of twinkling lights in the trees. What could it be? Fairies, will-o’-the-wisps, ghosts? Or is it a new type of environmental phenomenon, a previously undiscovered type of creature that emits an eerie light in the hours between sunset and sunrise? These seemingly magical photographs were all captured by the same man: a photographer named Barry Underwood.

The photos are, of course, of perfectly explainable origins. Underwood places lights in small studio dioramas or in full-scale real-life environments, creating a sort of hybrid location that is at once very real, yet fantasy-based. His work was shown recently in an exhibition called Earth Engines at The Johannson Projects gallery in Oakland, California.

According to Underwood, his work is a cross-pollination of photography and theater. He introduces ideas and elements from land art, cinema and traditional painting. But what comes out of the combination is something wholly unusual and unlike any of its elements.

The artificial lights installed in the photographed landscapes interplay with the natural light and landscape features, creating a surreal world that is reminiscent of centuries of folklore. Children who see fairies in meadows, weary travelers coaxed in the wrong direction by a mischievous will-o’-the-wisp, frightened vacationers who seem to catch the glowing orb of a spirit in a photograph: these are all called to mind by Underwood’s created worlds.

(images via: BLDGBLOG)

Being removable and harmless to the environment, these temporary light installations play up the natural beauty of their settings without causing any permanent changes. According to the artist, his introduction of artificial lights into a natural landscape renders the forms of the landscape abstract. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine that all of these images were completely engineered in the mind of an imaginative painter.