Stunning light calligraphy 

These amazing images are not actually Arabic but highly stylized French calligraphy by Julien Breton.

Julien, from Nantes in Western France, first started visualising rap lyrics, producing these long-exposure photographs in 2006. Over time he developed an ‘alphabet’ containing French aesthetics and Arabic calligraphy in a desire to bridge Arabian and Western visual languages. While always anchored in lettering this almost abstract style aims to move beyond words to evoke a feeling. 

He attributes this passion to growing up in a multicultural environment. Although he does not write or speak Arabic his work has gained interest worldwide, including in Saudi Arabia and Dubai where he has won awards for his illustrations advertising Arabia Telecom Communication.

Another key influence is the gestural energy of Japanese and Chinese calligraphy which is similar to the physical movement required to construct these images in front of the camera. This was taken to its natural conclusion when his work was combined with the dance moves of a performing arts group, pictured above.

I love the compositions and the way the lettering is sympathetic to the landscapes. The process can take between 30 seconds to several minutes according to the luminosity of the chosen location. During the exposure Julien ‘builds’ his calligraphy in front of the camera and without any visual guides, using lamps of various shapes and colours. There is no use of Photoshop in their creation.

 “The ink becomes light, the paper becomes photography, the calligraphy becomes choreography.”