1949 marks one of the peaks of Pablo Picasso’s career, leading LIFE magazine to send Gjon Mili to Picasso’s villa in the south of France. Mili used Picasso’s creativity with her portfolio of long exposure images captured by putting tiny lights on figure skaters and having them perform sequences in the dark. What followed was one of the greatest collaborations of two masters forever trapped in silver and celluloid to be interpreted by future generations via shades of gray.
This LIFE magazine article does the story better justice than me, so here’s where I am STFU, and refer to Ben Cosgrove’s article:
“Picasso,” LIFE magazine reported at the time, “gave Mili 15 minutes to try an experiment. He was so mesmerized by the result that he posed for five sessions, projecting 30 drawings of centaurs, bulls , of Greek profiles and his signature. Mili took his photos in a dark room, using two cameras, one for the side view, another for the front view. Leaving the shutters open, he captured the light trails whirling in space.
This series of photographs, since known as Picasso’s “drawings of light”, were made with a small electric light in a darkened room; indeed, the images disappeared as soon as they were created and yet they still live on, six decades later, in Mili’s playful and hypnotic images. Many of them were also exhibited in the early 1950s in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.