American Night

Photography in Greek means “drawing with light.” Since its invention, the endeavor of photographers has been to capture light and the landscape, in the right light. In my night photographs, I  am interested in a reversal of photography’s traditional approach.  By using the camera to capture the lack of light, I am using the darkness to reveal formal elements of the landscape that are less clear in the light of day. Because it is antithetical to the whole idea of photography, of “drawing with light” as the word itself derives from the Greek “photo-” (φως), “light,” and “-graphia” (γραφή), meaning “writing” or “drawing”.

I was inspired to explore low light photography after having seen an exhibition of the work by Bill Brandt, at MOMA in New York. I was particularly impressed by the photographs that he took during WWII and the blackouts in London. Despite the fact that these were shot often with the moonlight as the only source of light, there is rich detail in these images. This idea captured my imagination.  

"Night Light", began in the late 1990’s. I used to share a studio with two painters in the Ironbound district of Newark in New Jersey. We all lived back then in the not yet gentrified Manhattan areas. 

Newark was the only place we could afford to have studios and that was also where I had set up a darkroom. For me Newark was a revelation. The industrial landscape was something out of a 1930’s Film Noir. Some of these old factories were still operating. Most had shut down and what remained was their ruins. But I soon realized that by walking around Newark’s industrial zones, I was actually looking back in time. Operating or not, these factories and industrial streets seemed to have been untouched for a very long time, preserving their architectural character of another era. 

I started wandering in the darkness in Newark, New Jersey, with a 6x6 Rolleiflex mounted on a tripod, photographing relics of an American Dream in decline. I did this with a feeling of wonder at the beauty these sites acquired under the low light of the moon and of the streetlights. The photographic process, long exposures on film, allowed for a contemplative relationship with the subject. 

I was recording with the camera the rapidly disappearing industry and urban landscapes on the fringe of city limits. Along with the disappearance of this architecture due to the beginning of the gentrification process, I knew that a certain feeling was being erased, whose aim was to wipe clean what gave these parts of Newark, New York and other outer city zones, the feeling of an old place. 

But what is photography if not evidence of a time, a place or a person now radically different or even long gone? A photograph says “this existed”, it is  the evidence of its existence. As pointed out by Susan Sontag in her seminal work On Photography.

Sections

On Night Light

American Night

Photography in Greek means “drawing with light.” Since its invention, the endeavor of photographers has been to capture light and the landscape, in the right light. In my night photographs, I  am interested in a reversal of photography’s traditional approach.  By using the camera to capture the lack of light, I am using the darkness to reveal formal elements of the landscape that are less clear in the light of day. Because it is antithetical to the whole idea of photography, of “drawing with light” as the word itself derives from the Greek “photo-” (φως), “light,” and “-graphia” (γραφή), meaning “writing” or “drawing”.

I was inspired to explore low light photography after having seen an exhibition of the work by Bill Brandt, at MOMA in New York. I was particularly impressed by the photographs that he took during WWII and the blackouts in London. Despite the fact that these were shot often with the moonlight as the only source of light, there is rich detail in these images. This idea captured my imagination.  

"Night Light", began in the late 1990’s. I used to share a studio with two painters in the Ironbound district of Newark in New Jersey. We all lived back then in the not yet gentrified Manhattan areas. 

Newark was the only place we could afford to have studios and that was also where I had set up a darkroom. For me Newark was a revelation. The industrial landscape was something out of a 1930’s Film Noir. Some of these old factories were still operating. Most had shut down and what remained was their ruins. But I soon realized that by walking around Newark’s industrial zones, I was actually looking back in time. Operating or not, these factories and industrial streets seemed to have been untouched for a very long time, preserving their architectural character of another era. 

I started wandering in the darkness in Newark, New Jersey, with a 6x6 Rolleiflex mounted on a tripod, photographing relics of an American Dream in decline. I did this with a feeling of wonder at the beauty these sites acquired under the low light of the moon and of the streetlights. The photographic process, long exposures on film, allowed for a contemplative relationship with the subject. 

I was recording with the camera the rapidly disappearing industry and urban landscapes on the fringe of city limits. Along with the disappearance of this architecture due to the beginning of the gentrification process, I knew that a certain feeling was being erased, whose aim was to wipe clean what gave these parts of Newark, New York and other outer city zones, the feeling of an old place. 

But what is photography if not evidence of a time, a place or a person now radically different or even long gone? A photograph says “this existed”, it is  the evidence of its existence. As pointed out by Susan Sontag in her seminal work On Photography.

Sections