Artist Statement: ‘At the dark end of the street’ – Elwood by night

“Darkness, she explained, was nothing to fear…fear only shrunk a culture, made it embittered and selfish. The darkness was the victim of a slur which equated whiteness and light with good. Shift workers,prostitutes, taxi drivers, revellers were all part of the night, worlds which the day preferred to forget or ignore. Darkness she insisted could be home.”(Christos Tsiolkas, 2008)

Photographing at night has an extensive history;from the work of Alfred Steiglitz in the 1890s through to Brassai, Bill Brandt and more contemporary artists such as Richard Billingham, Dan O’Day and Bill Henson. I enter Elwood, my local suburban universe, with these images from predecessors and contemporaries in mind: wandering streets, following waterways, and taking photographs using long exposures on colour negative film.

Night and darkness often evoke feelings of fear, danger and risk. I set out to explore,but also to challenge, these responses in my own neighborhood.

Photographing at night, juxtaposing light and shadow within compositions devoid of human presence, accentuates solitude, stillness – but not necessarily emptiness nor alienation.  There are pleasures in solitude, and the hours spent alone,focusing on the quotidian, paradoxically seem to strengthen my attachment to place; a heightened sense of belonging. For me, exploration of these settings at night evokes greater intimacy with place and object; the fence, the tree, the house, the canal become localised, familiar, known, occupied and meaningful. By creating these images, previously ignored locales and objects have come to represent a shared history and memory of place.

An added surprise is the magical quality—the air of the night, thick like liquid ether, shifts the colours, leading us into an imaginative world, creating mystery and altering our views of place.

The Process.

I used 120 Colour Negative film, an Hassleblad Medium Format camera, a tripod and a torch. This process of image making suits the time of night; slow, silent and uninterrupted. For these images the overall exposure time was up to 4 minutes long.

As well as the available street lighting, I employed the technique known as ‘painting with light.’ In this instance, the camera shutter remained open and I used a large torch with blue cellophane covering the light source to both project additional light onto the subject, and to counter the yellow/orange hue thrown by the street lighting.

no place like home

Exhibition in situ: The Gallery, St Kilda Town Hall, St Kilda, Victoria, Australia.

25 May- 22 June 2011.

Using Format