Meet the Blind Photographer Behind the Light Paintings in Volkswagen’s Newest Ad

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If you take a look at Volkswagen’s ad for its newest Arteon model, you’ll be amazed by the striking photos of the car, shot at different angles with various flashing lights and vivid sparks of color in each image.

The artist behind the stunning photography? Pete Eckert, a blind photographer who proudly calls himself “a tourist in the sighted world.” Using a special technique that relies on sound, touch, and memory, Pete creates “light paintings” by manipulating light sources and sculpting images of physical objects.

Originally trained in sculpture and industrial design, Pete Eckert was a working carpenter when he first learned that he would eventually go blind.

Over thirty years ago, Pete’s doctor told him he had Retinis Pigmentosa, a rare eye disease in which the back wall of the retina is permanently damaged. Pete knew his time with sight was limited, so he started looking for work that he would be able to do without seeing the world around him.

While preparing to embark on his new life without eyesight, Pete stumbled upon his mother in laws’ 1950’s Kodak and was fascinated by the camera’s infrared setting and manual capabilities.

Pete has been experimenting with photography techniques ever since his discovery, and his innovative methods grabbed the attention of Grabarz & Partner, a German branding agency that works with Volkswagen. Amazed by his light paintings, the agency hired Eckert to shoot the ad images for the brand’s newest car, the Arteon—a four-door fastback model scheduled to hit the market in 2019.

By combining his unique structural approach and long-exposure techniques, Pete added brightly colored flash lights to images of the Arteon, creating the appearance of sparks and flames around the car.

“The new Arteon represents expressive, avant-garde design. Pete Eckert has presented this design in a unique way,” said Volkswagen head of marketing Xavier Chardon. “The images he has created are genuine works of art and have a very special atmosphere that only he can create.”

With an assistant by his side and an impressive sense of touch, Pete’s artistic process comprised of physically touching the vehicle itself and feeling each part of the car, visualizing the vehicle in his head before shooting and adding his surreal visual effects.

“I want to be included in the world and accepted,” Pete remarks on his website. “What I get out of taking photos is the event, not the picture,” he concludes.

The ad’s light paintings will add an edgy, modern element to the traditional luxury of Volkswagen’s recognized brand, but Pete’s inspiring attitude is the integral component worth driving home.

“Occasionally people refuse to believe I am blind,” Pete explains online, “I am a visual person. I just can’t see.”

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