Chiaroscuro and the absence of light.

Dear friends and family,

Long long ago when I was still a displaced first year student in this completely different world called Virginia, I had to take a series of required classes in order to pursue my journey of becoming an architect. One of them was Architecture 102, the mythical Lessons in Making class historically taught by Professor Sanda Iliescu. In brief, that class was a series of ten assignments supposed to teach us something about architecture; a mysterious subject for all of us first years.

One of them changed forever my achitectural perspective and perception. It was assignment 7, the Chiaroscuro chambers. At first, the project brief seemed rather odd for me: we were asked to design and build a small, enclosed box out of cardboard. This box had to have a series of small apertures in order to let light in. We also had to make apertures for our eyes, so we could see what would be happening inside. It was basically an exercise in creating thoughtful, quality lighting.

Concept Drawing of the Chiaroscuro Chamber by Victor Hugo Azevedo

concept drawing by Victor Hugo Azevedo

So we were first asked to make some concept drawings of how these chambers would look like. I was very much interested in creating a mysterious source of light that would reveal interesting internal surfaces.

This assignment has been very inspirational for me ever since. I became fond of chiaroscuro-like rooms; drawings and photographs. The chiaroscuro has a paradoxical character. The darkness makes everything look mysterious and unknown and the different sources of light makes us aware of what is inside. It hides and reveal at the same time. But it is a special kind of revealing. It’s a didactic revealing. It makes you see more carefully and analyse the space since it’s not shown with clarity.

I started to explore this character with photography; one of my many passions. I am always looking for these chiaroscuro moments in everyday life like in the picture I took below:

Victor Hugo de souza azevedo Self portrait: Chiaroscuro in everyday life.


I have the habit of carrying my camera with me everywhere I go. Last december I took the self portrait above. I was having a late afternoon meal in a bistro called « revolutionary soup »

Chiaroscuro in Caravaggio’s Painting

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