Mark Hammer's curiosity was sparked when he met Napier Operatic Society's lighting guy.

His passion soon outgrew the Tabard Theatre and he went searching for brighter lights on bigger stages. His work is currently part of the world's largest festival of light - Vivid Sydney.

But it all started in Napier - learning the basics of how to shape a space and light someone on stage.

"A lot of it for me is the way you can change a landscape or change a space with colour, with pattern with light and shade... I just have endless hours of fun." He took what he learned from there and built on it.


Hammer bounced around the globe, accumulating skills and knowledge on his travels and returned to Sydney where he set up his own company - Hammer Lighting.

The creative lighting design consultancy provides the complete package from design to installation and operation.

He has lit up Coldplay, Katy Perry, Stevie Wonder and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, just to name a few.

Despite his many years of experience, Hammer admitted to having had a few reservations about working with Dame Kiri as he had heard that she was quite particular about her lighting needs.

However, when introduced to her, her request was simple: "Just make me look great" she told him. So he did.

Hammer has also been part of some of the most spectacular shows in Australia, including the 2003 Rugby World Cup opening ceremony and the 2006 Commonwealth Games opening and closing ceremonies in Melbourne.

Being part of a team of hundreds that created such a dynamic and visual display was amazing, he said.

"Mixing in a few colours to change a space and to get different feelings of mystery or romantic - changing what you see in normal daytime to something completely different."
Events and stage shows are still his bread and butter but festivals like Vivid allow him to develop his creative side even further.

It also challenges the idea that lighting is simply "we need to switch a light on to light a room", Hammer said.

His Vivid Sydney exhibition, In the Frame uses light and reflection to create a surreal space.

This lighting effect is achieved by positioning LED strips in combination with reflective surfaces and when viewed from particular angles creates the illusion of standing in another dimension.

As participants stand behind the circle frames they will see some of the illusion on their side of the glass but it will also appear as a photo opportunity on the other side. The illusion will be their floating face caught in a moment of infinity.

Hammer has been a part of Vivid Sydney since it first began in 2009 as Smartlight. It is now the world's largest festival of light, music and ideas, and last year attracted more than 1.7 million people. "It's a great release for me to show work as an art piece - it's a lot of fun," he said.

Vivid Sydney runs until June 18.