Artist Berndnaut Smilde may use simple smoke machines to create his indoor cloudworks, but to achieve such dramatic results requires meticulous experimentation with both lighting and interior atmospheric conditions.
"I wanted to make the image of a typical Dutch raincloud inside a space," Smilde told Gizmag. "I'm interested in the ephemeral aspect of the work. It's there for a brief moment and then the cloud falls apart. The work only exists as a photograph."
The dramatic effect is achieved by backlighting the cloud which creates shadows within, Smilde explained. It's these shadows that lend the cloud the forbidding aspect of a raincloud.
Combined with the empty, almost austere interiors selected by Smilde, as well as the sheer oddity of the sight of a cloud suspended indoors, the clouds give the photographs an unsettling (almost ghostly) yet simultaneously serene, ethereal quality.
But how does Smilde get the cloud to hang around long enough to hide the smoke machine and compose the shot? "By moistening the air you can shape and keep the cloud from falling apart directly as the moist sticks to it making the smoke heavier," Smilde explains. "Also when the space is really cold it prevents the smoke from rising too quickly. Basically that's it, and of course a lot of practice."