Hid Saib’s Electric Effigies

 
Ana’s mom asked her to relax. She stuck her tongue out instead. Photograph/Hid Saib

Ana’s mom asked her to relax. She stuck her tongue out instead. Photograph/Hid Saib

Brazilian photographer Hid Saib traces human expression with splashes of neon dust along with action painting artist Monica Nitz.

My Assignment

  • Description: To make a series of intimate portraits by experimenting with colour.
  • Duration: 3 months.
  • Notes: You can look for glow-in-the-dark body paints in a local market or purchase them from Amazon.com

The day a friend of mine showed me a neon portrait, I pledged my love for this project. However, the portrait I saw seemed a little incomplete. It made me realise that my neon pictures would be aimed at exploring the subject’s frame of mind with colour. I started off with shooting expressions because I found that there was something very absolute about them, almost like a force. In their entirety, they surpass words by miles. They are like mischievous explosions of colour, taking us by surprise, making us more human.

My Perspective
I wanted to figure out how to translate each emotion into an almost cosmic visual—an entire world in itself. There was an immediate need to see through the smokescreen we use to shield ourselves. You could say that seeing these unseasonal shades of neon set off a trigger. Colours and expressions, two unadulterated truths, became one in my head. A verse of expressions had started forming, and I couldn’t wait to complete it.

Dave’s portrait is a part of a series of children in neon called Neonzinhos. I was keen on photographing children because of their lack of inhibitions. Photograph/Hid Saib

Dave’s portrait is a part of a series of children in neon called Neonzinhos. I was keen on photographing children because of their lack of inhibitions. Photograph/Hid Saib

The Process
The day I saw that portrait, my friends and I dashed into a store, and bought some neon paints and a UV bulb. We had no idea how to go about it since none of us really knew how to paint. So, we smudged random colours over my little brother’s face, much to his annoyance. It wasn’t all in vain after all, for when I saw the photograph, I was hooked.

We started calling in friends, friends of friends, anybody who had captivating eyes. It was a bit of a mess in the beginning, what with a lot of random experiments. Later, an action painter and friend, Monica Nitz collaborated with me on this project. Gradually, we started differentiating between the colours that would and would not work with a certain skin tone.

We started using lesser colours for more impact. Also, we realised that although the light source was the UV bulb, the nature of light on the models depended on the detailing and spread of the paint. Soon, the project started taking a definite form and a body of work came into being.

My Equipment
I used a 50mm, f/1.8 lens because it offers a fast aperture and I wanted to make the portraits look radiant by letting in as much light as I could. You could also use a compact camera to make similar portraits but you wouldn’t get this kind of bokeh. The out-of-focus particles of paint helped me achieve a stardust look.

Monica’s action painting usually involves splashing paint onto the canvas. So, while painting faces and bodies for this series, she had to tame her painting style to get more definitive designs. Photograph/Hid Saib

Monica’s action painting usually involves splashing paint onto the canvas. So, while painting faces and bodies for this series, she had to tame her painting style to get more definitive designs. Photograph/Hid Saib

Go Electric With These Tips!

  • Pre-preparation: Apply a coat of body cream mixed with foundation make-up before using glow-in-the-dark body paints.
  • Using the Paint: Apply the paint under UV Light as it would look very different in natural light. The thicker the spread of paint, the more the light it emits.
  • Keep them Still: Try to keep the model still as the paint can get smudged easily.
  • The Stardust Effect: Spray paint with the help of a toothbrush or use glow-in-thedark powder to get the tiny specks of light.
  • Let the Light In: Use a wide aperture and a tripod as you would be shooting in extremely low light. Extra UV bulbs won’t help as they would blow out the paint.
  • Use Water: Neon make-up gets activated with water whereas the paints can be diluted to increase the quantity.

To see more of Hid’s electrifying work, you can visit www.hidsaib.com

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: colours, cosmic, Hid Saib, may 2014, neon, On Assignment, paint, portraits, stardust, UV