Ross Sonnenberg‘s photographs evoke images of deep space, galaxies, and nebulas, but instead they’re the result of a different kind of big bang. Overlaying a combination of, gels, sand, tin foil, and anything else he thinks might be interesting, the photographer blasts photo-reactive paper with one of the most volatile light creating mediums he can find: explosives.
“The main ingredient you need to make these is light, and my special ingredient would happen to be fireworks,” Sonnenberg says in a video, pulling a package of light-producing explosives from behind a nearby bush. “I light the fireworks directly on top of the paper, and see what happens.” The things that happen vary from exposure to exposure, and he deems about two thirds of his work unusable, marking a difference between his practice and that of photographers like David Johnson, who use a camera to capture the fiery bursts.
“It’s pretty hit and miss because of all the variables, i.e. super high color temp of the fireworks, exposure time in the developer etc. But, when I get something it feels like a little miracle,” he tells The Creators Project. In his latest set he experiments with bottle rockets, which dart and spin around before they explode. If the whole thing seems a little bit dangerous, it is—definitely don’t try this stuff on your own. But Sonnenberg reports that he emerged from the shoot in one piece, more or less: “Got a little singed on my fingers, but no digit loss,” he assured The Creators Project.
For him, the images are well worth the risk. “It’s just really interesting what different types of fireworks (ex. firecracker, bottle rockets and spinning ground flowers) create different patterns and colors.” Next, he wants to experiment with video exposures, to see what direction it him. Who knows? He might even channel his inner LIL AMOK and strap Roman candles to his legs while breakdancing. But we wouldn’t advise that either
Visit Sonnenberg’s website for more of his explosive fireworks experiments.