This Creative Photographer Takes Light Painting to a Whole New Level

Hannu Huhtamo is an artist based in Helsinki, Finland. There, exists is a dark period called the Polar Night where the sun doesn’t rise for 50 days. For anyone else, the Polar Night might be something to dread. But for Hannu, it provides the perfect environment for his craft. Hannu ‘paints’ using long exposure photographs and different light instruments. His designs are ethereal and otherworldly, inviting viewers to contemplate parallel dimensions and find beauty in unlikely places. We caught up with him for an insight into his unusual and mesmerizing practice.

How did you find your way to this unique form of art making?

I started photography as a hobby about 9 years ago. Originally I’m a musician and I didn’t know that much about long exposure techniques, until a good friend of mine showed me some of his experimental light drawings. I got stunned about the whole concept immediately. I just couldn’t understand how the person can’t be seen in the picture. It really hit me hard and in next couple of weeks, I bought my first DSLR camera. It started to feel like that this might be the most inspiring way to express myself and possibly create something unique.


What inspires you?

Nature. All the incredible forms of life and its diversity. It’s a huge source of an inspiration. If I need to get my thoughts together or get some fresh ideas, I simply go to the forest for a walk. Of course there are also many great artists whose work is inspiring and their energy encourages me to go on.

copy-of-hannu_huhtamo_three_touches_to_entropy copy-of-hannu_huhtamo_theres_a_spark_of_light_in_every_shadow

How long does it usually take to complete one piece?

If we’re talking about the exposure times, it might vary from minutes to half an hour. But the whole process of planning and practicing might take a few days just to get all parts of the light shape done smoothly, and then get it to the muscle memory by repeating it many times.

What are some of the challenges that arise?

One of the biggest challenges of light painting is that you can’t see what you’re drawing. That’s why I have to plan a choreography and memorize every movement to complete the form I want.

What are the tools that you need to create one of these images?

I can use almost anything that emits light. One of my favourite tools is electroluminescent wire aka glow wire. It’s awesome because you can bend it in various shapes and create organic shapes more smoothly. I also like the the translucent structure of the light trail it gives. I have a selection of DIY light tools that are made from recycled materials like different colored plastic bags as filters, kids toys and battery operated decoration LED lights.

copy-of-hannu_huhtamo_waiting_to_be_found hannu_huhtamo_live_and_well

What issues and ideas do you like to explore?

For some reason the symmetry has fascinated me more than anything else. Maybe it has something to do with my personality. I tend to be a bit restless soul and rush from one thing to another quite fast. That way I might seek balanced things, like symmetry, through my art. It’s more than just creating images, it’s a form of meditation.

I like to use both of my hands at the same time when I’m drawing with light. It helps me to achieve symmetric shapes more easily and it also makes my moves more balanced in the darkness.

Is there an overarching message you hope to give your audience?

I’m interested in how we define what is beautiful and what is not. I try to examine it through environment by exploring unusual places in the city outskirts. Abandoned and dilapidated houses that are reclaimed by nature, are usually the most inspiring environments to find hidden beauty. My light flowers and luminous beings represent hope and a bit of order in the middle of the chaos.

Is there something you’ve wanted to try out, but haven’t yet?

Yes, many things! For a starters to visit all the incredible abandoned places around the world like the Hashima island in Japan or WWII monuments in Yugoslavia, just to name a few. Also underwater light painting would be awesome to try.


Which has been your most challenging piece and why?

It’s hard to name just one, but there’s a bit older picture called “Stranded” which I still like a lot. It’s not the light form itself, but the combination of colors and shapes. It was a quite challenging to nail, because there was -18 Celsius degrees, freezing wind and about 1 meters of snow where I had to wade my way out, without gloves.


What has been the greatest lesson you have learned in your time as an artist?

Live in the moment. Do things without thinking too much of the outcome. Improvise. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have make any plans beforehand, it’s more like for getting new, unexpected ideas that might lead into something bigger.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Don’t leave things halfway, finish everything you’ve started. Learn from mistakes and start another one.

If you could go back in time to when you first began making art, and offer yourself one piece of advice, what would that be?

Trust yourself and try to focus on one thing you really love.

See more of Hannu’s work at

Related Articles

- Advertisement -

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -