Backstory: Moving Light

Yulia Gorbachenko adds sizzle to her fashion photographs

Yulia Gorbachenko

I began the series “Illuminant Body” for my master’s thesis at the School of Visual Arts in New York. I’ve always been inspired by color and using different-colored light sources on a subject against a dark background. I wanted to use that to explore extravagance and sensuality in fashion photography. I added light painting to the series to add movement—it brings a perception of color in motion.

I’d been contacting various modeling agencies and worked with a stylist to find jewelry for each shoot. I set up two continuous light sources: on the left, with a yellow gel, and on the right, with cyan. In the front, I had a softbox with the flash set to front-curtain sync, and the camera set to expose for 0.8 seconds. When the flash pops, the subject is frozen—I use the remaining exposure to move the camera slightly up and down, painting in the sides with light.

On some shoots the model wouldn’t quite fit the mood, or the lighting setup wouldn’t quite work. I could tell within 10 seconds of shooting that this model knew how to move, and I was able to make the colors move around her.