The Light Observer #3
If you’ve been following this series so far, you’ll already have dipped your toes into ‘the art and culture of bathing’ with Hamam magazine and shared a glass of natural wine alongside the good people of Pipette. For this month’s edition of ITOT, we explore something a little more… abstract.
Milanese magazine The Light Observer does precisely what it says on the tin: it ‘investigates our relationship with light’. The biannual publication began its relatively recent life in print by freely exploring the ethereal subject—both scientifically and poetically (largely the latter). Now sitting comfortably at their third issue, editor Hugo Berger and his team have gently shifted their trajectory to observe light ‘through a specific lens’, as Berger writes in the opening pages of issue three;
‘The idea of serendipity remains: in our case, developing the magazine’s content in a rather unplanned fashion and allowing chance finds. In this issue, light is explored through water. The deep ocean—mysterious and compelling—is where we start.’
And so we have The Water Issue, beautifully presented just as its predecessor was (the first was a subtler monochrome affair). A front cover cut-out of the magazine’s triangular, prism-like logo partially frames the first inside-page to reveal a textured artwork of off-white, blues and coral by Norwegian artist Melinda Braathen (whose pencil and pastel artworks are spotlighted toward the end of the issue).
Diving in, we’re greeted first with an in-depth (literally) interview with Séverine Martini, a researcher at the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanology in Marseille (MIO) who specialises in the study of bioluminescence in the deep ocean (is it just me or is that job description mildly arousing?) The interview is accompanied by a photographic ‘artistic research project’ by Nicolas Floc’h named La couleur de l’eau (the colour of the ocean) which captures ocean hues at different depths and in different locations around the world (above). Here, the pages teem with ‘bioluminescence’, ‘phosphoresce’ and ‘fluorescence’ and it’s all incredibly satisfying.
Leaving the waist-deep waters of oceanic curiosa above, we wade into its adjoining features. First, a melancholic photographic series by Munich-based Tobias Friedauer (above), followed by a second from photographer Charles Negre which––in stark visual contrast––captures the otherworldly glow of fluorescent corals by using ‘long exposure, illuminated by a very low ultraviolet light’, revealing a secret spectrum of colours ‘hardly visible to the naked eye’.
A second, detailed interview comes in the shape of artists Arguiñe Escandón and Yann Gross who, together, have developed an ‘organic photography process based on a light-sensitive emulsion made out of plants collected in the Peruvian Amazon’. This is succeeded by a newly-illustrated feature assembled from extracts originally published in a book printed in 1887 named Living Lights: A Popular Account of Phosphorescent Animals and Vegetables (I wonder what the Unpopular Account was like?)
It’s at this point that The Light Observer morphs into a largely visual entity. Paintings, illustrations and photography swell its remaining pages while short texts and pithy interviews ebb and flow in the white space in-between––of which there is a significant amount throughout. Everything then culminates in a short, inky-blue photographic piece by Italian artist Eleonora Paciullo––we began in the ocean-deep and we end in pages of deep-blue (above).
‘Bloc du glace dans la foret de Fontainebleau’ by Charlotte Perriand
To wrap up, reading The Light Observer (and this edition in particular) is an emotive and liberally visual experience and, though I found myself craving more of the longer-form, wordy stuff, its subject matter and this time around, it's theme, had me hook, line and sinker as soon as it arrived at the magCulture shop. It achieves precisely what Berger sets out to do, ‘[offering] a variety of thoughts, shapes and colours around a theme that continues to fascinate us: light’.
Perhaps the publication will grow to include more of the long-form, think pieces I long for? However it evolves, it’s a pretty gorgeous platform for exploring the subject of light, and more generally, illuminating the places in which art and science meet and absolutely blur into one another.
Let there be light!
Editor & publisher: Hugo Berger
Photography editor: Eleonora Paciullo