Rule Breakers: Gary Stubelick

“I never want to see another picture of ________.” Industry veterans share their pet peeves on themes in contemporary photography. In this series they present their “rule” along with five photographs that break it, in an effort to show that great work is the exception to the rule.

Rule Setter: Debbie Hagan, writer, editor, art critic
Rule Breaker: Gary Stubelick

I never want to see another time-lapse night photograph with stars whirling across the night sky or the golden glow of headlights streaking down a dark, lonely highway. I get it—open up the shutter and look at what light and movement can do. Okay, next….

There’s something profoundly different with Gary Stubelick’s work. I first stumbled across it while doing research on night photographers for Art New England. The fire, the intensity, the other-worldliness of his images compelled me to interview this artist.  

Stubelick told me of his long interest in time-lapse photography and how his version of it began.  

As a young child I was fascinated by the time exposures of taillights from automobiles in Life Magazine and National Geographic. I began to think about the possibilities, if the taillight was in one’s hand. That became the basis for my Timelight Picture Studies.

What I love most about these works is that they’re original creations, born of the artist’s imagination—not just recordings of time. Yes, Stubelick uses a prolonged exposure, but he approaches each project with an artistic vision—in the way a painter does when sitting down with canvas and paints. Stubelick’s surface is the black night sky. His medium is light. Penlights and sparklers are his brushes. A road flare becomes his crayon. A kite bearing a light source becomes a calligraphy pen. He’s like a performance artist—staging, choreographing, and synchronizing.

I admit to also being intrigued by Stubelick’s rebelliousness, the way he works under the cloak of darkness, stealthy like a graffiti artist, not asking for permits and permissions. He gravitates to street objects, turning a dirt mound into a lava-flowing volcano. The old fire hydrant, the chained bicycle, and the abandoned car evolve into fiery icons.

In reality, Stubelick’s works exists only in how the artist and the camera see them. The souvenirs of his elaborate dance are his photographs that transport viewers and leave them pondering, how does he do it?

—Debbie Hagan

   Fire Balls  FPC1 Timelight Picture Study with Highway Flares

Fire Balls FPC1 Timelight Picture Study with Highway Flares

   Forklift with FireWire  Timelight Picture Study with Highway Flares

Forklift with FireWire Timelight Picture Study with Highway Flares

   Urban Frontier  Timelight Picture Study with Sparklers

Urban Frontier Timelight Picture Study with Sparklers

  Target Tag  NSG Timelight Picture Study with Sparklers & Flares.

Target Tag NSG Timelight Picture Study with Sparklers & Flares.

  Winged Man 7  (Self-Portrait) Timelight Picture Study with Fireworks & Highway Flares.

Winged Man 7 (Self-Portrait) Timelight Picture Study with Fireworks & Highway Flares.