Self Portrait
OS ∆ OOS, Syzygy Lamps

Credit where credit is due: The idea for Sight Unseen’s newest column, Self Portrait, came from a chat we had recently with Pin-Up editor Felix Burrichter, over lunch in Soho. “Why don’t you feature more products?” he asked us, to which we replied that our site is really about process — not products. Felix suggested we ask designers to pose with their latest works, something more personal than just reporting the news. The notion rattled around in our brains for a few months until it evolved into something even more exciting, at least we think so: A series inviting designers and artists to visually present their creations to us in a unique way, photographing them firsthand in a setting or setup that somehow illuminates the ideas behind the object. Our first submission comes from Oskar Peet, who with his partner Sophie Mensen founded the Eindhoven-based firm OS ∆ OOS this fall, launching with a trio of lamps so beautiful and intriguing that we actually feel grateful to Burrichter for inspiring the perfect platform with which to share them. Check out Peet and Mensen’s submission above, then read below about how — and why — they got the shot.

“Our Syzygy lamps are primarily composed of three light-filtering glass circles placed in front of three equally round LED light sources, with Eclipse and Occultation also incorporating a concrete foot which has the cable cast directly inside. The amount of light emitted by the LED can be adjusted by turning either of the two foremost glass filters by hand. Rotating the filters left or right in nearly endless configurations allows users to change the light atmosphere with extreme subtlety; every millimeter turned gives a different effect. [Click here to see a video of the lamps in action.] We made the lamps for the ‘Objects Rescoped’ exhibition during Dutch Design Week, which was based on the theme of re-appreciation. We’d read an article in the newspaper that described how the sun was entering a winter sleep period of approximately 70 years, where the average temperature on earth will drop by around 1 to 1.5 degrees overall. Although this temperature difference isn’t drastically noticeable, it will be enough to combat the effects of global warming — or so the article says. The article gave us the idea that perhaps the rising and setting of the sun could end up being one of the most important phenomena that we humans take for granted, hence the need for re-appreciation.

“We took that notion further by looking at light or sunlight itself, and the discrepancy between the way most lamps operate and the fact that the transition between night and day isn’t an instantaneous flicking of a switch, but a wonderful graduation that takes time. The physical blocking of light, as the basis for our concept, gave us the ability to fade from light  to dark gradually, just like in nature. As for the name, NASA has a term for the revolution of the earth around the sun that allows us to experience night and day. It’s called a syzygy, which simply put is a straight line configuration of three celestial bodies that can produce three distinct effects depending on how they align: a transit, an occultation, and an eclipse, each of which we chose to demonstrate with our three lamps.

“The idea for placing the lamps outdoors was to try and bring them into the environment that inspired them. Given that there happened to be a full moon when we were asked to contribute to this column, we set out to see if the lamps could be successfully photographed by us in the darkness. We quickly realized that although it was possible to capture the moon and the lamps in the same shot, we were unable to get a detailed enough image of the lamps themselves — they appeared as three semi-blurry burning balls of light hovering over the grass. Not really a great shot to promote our product! The only success we had was in using the flash at a much closer distance, but that meant leaving Mr. Moon out of the shot. We designers always think we can do everything ourselves, especially when we’re starting out. So though we’re not truly pleased with the results, we did have fun trying something a bit weirder than the studio shots we already made.”