In 1949, a freelance photographer for LIFE Magazine, Gjon Mili, paid a visit to Pablo Picasso in the South of France. Mili, an innovator of photography at the time, experimented with electronic flashes and stroboscopic lights to capture a sequence of movements within one frame. Mili’s visit to Picasso’s home was to show his fellow artist the photographs he’d captured of ice skaters jumping around in the dark, streaks of illuminated lines dashing across the images from the little lights attached to their skates.
Inspired, Picasso jumped at the chance to be a part of Mili’s strobe photographs. The story that ran in LIFE at the time reported:
Picasso gave Mili 15 minutes to try one experiment. He was so fascinated by the result that he posed for five sessions, projecting 30 drawings of centaurs, bulls, Greek profiles and his signature. Mili took his photographs in a darkened room, using two cameras, one for side view, another for front view. By leaving the shutters open, he caught the light streaks swirling through space.
The idea of creating art with a little glowing bulb and a canvas of thin air must have been a thrilling proposal to Picasso, who wasted no time in putting Mili to work. The photographs produced are known as Picasso’s “light drawings,” capturing the fluid movements of the artist, outlining strokes of light that disappeared the very moment they were produced, save for the images documenting their shape. It’s common now to see lomography versions of light drawings, but how about glancing at some of the first photos pioneering the stroboscopic method–drawn by a master, nonetheless?
but does it float recently posted these images: