Tension between light and dark

Vermeer, Master of Light

Last year I visited the Netherlands to both spend time with my family and get some vacation in as well. As my mother is advancing in age, I try to visit every year, particularly, since travel is getting more difficult for her.

During this visit I wanted to explore a couple of cities that I hadn’t visited for quite a while; one of these was Delft. The city of Delft dates back to the 13th century and has played a significant role in the formation of the Netherlands, as it was used as the de facto capital by William of Orange during the 80-year war to liberate the country from Spain. Another great aspect of Delft is that the center and a lot of points of interest are within walking distance from the central train station.

Another claim to fame of Delft is the painter Johannes Vermeer. As I came across the Vermeer Centre, while in Delft, I was pleasantly surprised by its depth of coverage and wonderful exhibit. This museum is located just off the Market Square and is in a replica of the building that housed the Guild of Saint Luke (a guild for painters that was common across cities in early modern Europe ).

Tension between light and dark

One of the things that always drew me to the painters from the Dutch Golden Age is their use of light and shadow, also known as chiaroscuro. This technique centers on creating a significant contrast between the light and dark areas of a painting. As a result, it creates a dynamic tension between light and dark. This tension brings drama and interest and allows for a voyage of discovery within the image, as our eye is drawn to light first.

The Vermeer Centre’s exhibit last September detailed the different uses of light by Vermeer, as that is a key aspect of his genius. The setups detailed various light sources and how they were used in different paintings by Vermeer. For a photographer, this was a wonderful reminder to use light in all sorts of ways, often rather simple, and generate looks that are nothing short of stunning.

I took the photo in this post at the Vermeer Centre, as I was drawn immediately to the simplicity and power of the still-life that was set up on the basic wooden table. It gives the sense of that age and is simple to replicate in any studio.