Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Into the dark: A history of night photography - British Journal of Photography

Into the dark: A history of night photography - British Journal of Photography:

'via Blog this'

The May 2012 edition of BJP had the theme of night photography so - given my interest in what they humorously call the 'Dark Arts' - I was more than usually keen to get the wrapper of this particular edition. Inside however I found a bit of a mixed bag - summed up for me by the irony of running a review of two cameras which have sufficiently high ISO capabilities that you can photograph in dark situations as if it were daylight.

A significant proportion of the photos and sets seemed to be about defeating darkness, rather than using its creative potential - one set even used 'artificial' darkness - overpowering daylight by the use of flash lighting. I'm not trying to say that some of these shots did not have merit in their own rights - but I'm not sure they live up to the promise of the headline. James Nizam's Thought Forms set is a case in point - they are extremely clever, well executed and quite thought provoking, but they are more about light than they are about dark.

I was less clear about the merits of the shots which 'reveal' secret military exercises and missile launches. Quite what I'm supposed to make of the revelation that the American military practises night fighting in the dark eludes me.

On the flip side the set by Bill Henson seem to me to catch the essence of night with his dark, murky dream worlds hinting at unseen terrors  - touching on some of our primal concerns, and maybe fantasies, about darkness. Miti Ruangkritya's portfolio of flood shots in Bangkok were given added mystery and poignancy by the dark, and the photographs of Inuit people by Donald Weber using the characteristic light of an LCD screen was a clever take on the challenges facing a people who have moved from the stone age to the digital age in a single generation.

So overall - the usual BJP mix of stunning photos, clever ideas and stuff which I don't get (yet - if ever). Plenty of food for thought though, and it  makes me wish for the earlier night-falls again (sorry).

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