Darkness to Light: A Personal Emotional Photo Story

Darkness to Light: A Personal Emotional Photo Story

At different points in our lives we experience happy moments, but also tragic ones. In this emotional photo series, we see how one person overcomes their dark past and stands strong immersed in the light of their new beginnings. 

As a portrait photographer, I realized that we have the unique gift and ability to share our emotions with the world and bring change to those around us. During a dark time in my life, I needed an outlet to share my thoughts, and that's when I picked up my camera and shot this emotional series of portraits that documents finding hope in times of darkness. 

The Backstory

Every person is split between dark moments, and bright profound accomplishments. We are physically and emotionally split. Sometimes our past creeps up on us and we become immersed in it. We become susceptible to our pain and suffering thus causing us to lose our own humanity. However, under a blanket of darkness, emerges a light; a light that removes all the darkness from us and leaves us in a shining layer of happiness and potential. We become humans again, full of light and beauty. Our dark past is left behind in the dust of our new beginnings. 

The Shoot

Whenever I'm feeling an intense emotion and what to get it off my chest, I shoot portraits. For this shoot I knew I wanted to something bigger than I have ever done before. So I reached out to creative director Sarah Sherman who helped me with the concept, film maker Henry Max to put together a behind the scenes video, and incredible model Eli Rosenberg to help bring the vision to life. It's incredible what you could do with a crew who are equally as passionate, that's when we create magic.  It's an amazing feeling. 

If you're interested in how we captured the final images take a look at this behind the scenes video:

The Light and Camera Settings

For this shoot I wanted something dramatic, and that's where lighting came into play. I setup a 59-foot Elinchrom softbox as my key light positioned right above the models head at full power (My ambient exposure was completely dark). I shot that into a black flag camera left to create shadows on the left side of the image and create a hard fall-off of light. Then we placed a small backlight behind the model to catch the falling flour and highlight it. 

My camera settings were ISO 100, 1/1500 s, f/8.

The nine-image photo story can be seen below: 

A young girls world has been turned upside down and the darkness is haunting her. She hides behind the darkness of tragedy and can't see the emerging light of the future.

She is emotionally and psychologically split. One side of her wants to stay in the past, and the other wants to over come it.

But the feelings of sadness is contagious. 

She feels trapped in her own past and is finding her way out. She holds on to a gripping past.

She's susceptible to darkness and pain but absorbs it. In the end she comes out a stronger person.

She sits immersed in her past but is cleansing herself with her bright future.

Her dark past is dripping away and all that's left is her shining future.

Look into her eyes and wonder in her light. Her dark past is left in the dust of her new beginnings

If you're ever feeling down or happy, go take your camera and shoot something that's from your heart. Share your story with the world.

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Allen Morris's picture

Magnificent work, both technically and artistically. Often articles choose to focus on either the technical or the creative; I appreciate that you combined both here.

A question on the process: how did you come to use the white dust as a symbol of the "darkness"? And is it intentional that this subverts our cultural signifiers of light and dark?

Kol Hakavod

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Wow! I really appreciate you looking at the article! Means a lot! The darkness in this one was actually deliberately her skin. It was a cultural reference to that. It's a statement how sometimes we lose our own humanity. How we're split between black and white.

Allen Morris's picture

You're very welcome! Interesting; the dust being a signifier of her lose of self and humanity? Was that the intent?

Apologies if I'm prying too much and should let the work stand on its own.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Now you're really makingl me think. :) yeah pretty much! I used the flour as a visual tool to show being immersed and then slowly becoming more covered. Meaning that in the first shots there's barely any flour showing that she's still stuck in darkness then the flour increases all over her fade showing that she has overcome the darkness and what's left is light. Perhaps take another look at the captions. They might give you a better understanding of what I'm talking about.

Allen Morris's picture

Very good, thank you for the clarification!

I saw the flour as a symbol of the darkness itself when juxtaposing the two final images: she is covered in flour in the second to last, and has only remnants of it in the final. So for me, it looked like that past was being removed, with remnants left and her true self shining back through.

"Her dark past is left in the dust of her new beginnings" – the caption of the final image – that has a lot to unpack (for what is on the surface and straightforward statement!) I initially connected the (literal) dust to the dark past, as in "her dark past is left in the dust", and not the dust of her new beginnings, as it is written.

There's a good deal to break down here; a testament to your work.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Yes! Great note! I meant to add that! That she still maintains her dignity and true self regardless of everything that's has happened!

Allen Morris's picture

Well I didn't plan to confront and discuss the meaning of tragedy and the resilience of humanity this Sunday morning, but I'm glad I did.

Thank you!

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

This series is supposed to invoke meaning and discussion. It's an important topic to talk about. Feel free to share. :)

joe stemmer's picture

Nice concept and well executed. Good team effort. I wondering where you found the "59-foot Elinchrom softbox"?

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Thanks so much!! ha ha!! I don't know how the editors didn't catch that! Whoops :D