WXXI Airs Documentary about RIT’s Longtime Photo Project Big Shot

‘The RIT Big Shot: Painting with Light’ premieres Sept. 8 on WXXI-TV




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A. Sue Weisler

Approximately 1,000 volunteers were broken up into lighting teams and staged both around and inside The Strong for the making of the Big Shot photograph. Volunteers used flashlights and camera flash units to continuously “paint their areas with light” while RIT photographers took an extended exposure.

WXXI captures the making of Rochester Institute of Technology’s 26th Big Shot and shares stories of the nighttime photography project that’s spanned 25 years in the documentary The RIT Big Shot: Painting with Light, premiering at 8 p.m. Sept. 8 on WXXI-TV (channel 21/cable 1011 and 11).

Produced by WXXI and shot in high definition, the film documents the community nighttime photography project that began in 1987 with the first RIT Big Shot at Highland Hospital. Since 1987, the project has grown into a community project and hopscotched around the world, highlighting landmarks including the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden; the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas; Pile Gate in Dubrovnik, Croatia; and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Using archival footage from a variety of sources, the film tells the stories of all 26 past Big Shots including the inaugural shoot at Highland Hospital, as well as the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, Silver Stadium, Rundel Library, Mount Hope Cemetery and the Ontario County Courthouse.

The RIT Big Shot: Painting with Light also features never-before-seen footage of the 1999 Big Shot of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City.

RIT’s 26th Big Shot took place at the National Museum of Play at The Strong on May 5 with about 1,000 volunteers. The volunteers, using camera flash units and flashlights, “painted the building with light” as photographers from RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences captured the museum using an open shutter and the dramatic technique of timed exposure.

The Big Shot initially started as a project to get RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences students excited about electronic flash photography. Throughout the project’s tenure, Bill DuBois, professor emeritus in RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences; Michael Peres, associate administrative chair in RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences; and Dawn Tower DuBois, professor in RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, have coordinated the Big Shot. The trio share intimate details about the shoots and talk about the logistics and lighting plans for the photographs.

Additional interviews include Frank Cost, former interim dean of RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences; Suzanne Seldes, vice president of marketing at The Strong; and award-winning metal sculptor Albert Paley, who participated in the lighting of the 26th Big Shot at The Strong.

An encore presentation of the documentary will air at 10 p.m. Sept. 12. To learn more, go to WXXI.org/bigshot.

201108/bigshot.jpg

A. Sue Weisler

Approximately 1,000 volunteers were broken up into lighting teams and staged both around and inside The Strong for the making of the Big Shot photograph. Volunteers used flashlights and camera flash units to continuously “paint their areas with light” while RIT photographers took an extended exposure.

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Final image of RIT’s 26th Big Shot at the National Museum of Play at The Strong. The exposure time for the image was 15 seconds at F11. RIT photographers were perched across the street on the terrace roof of the ESL Federal Credit Union.