Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Alan Delaney

If I had to list three or four of the biggest influences on my night photography, Alan Delaney would definitely be included on that list. I first saw Delaney's work in 2002 when I took a night photography workshop with The Nocturnes in San Francisco (Tim Baskerville has the largest collection of night photography books I've ever seen). Delaney is best known to night photographers as the author of London After Dark, a collection of black-and-white photos of the industrial and seedy sides of London.

(photo: Alan Delaney)

The photographs span the breadth from the touristy side of London, to photographs of gypsies living in caravans (i.e., that's "trailer homes" for readers in the US). The accompanying well-researched text paints a fascinating history of the city as it grew from a collection of villages into a major cosmopolitan city. The tone of the writing is dark and brooding; most appropriate for black-and-white night photography. The great photographs include references to London's overcrowding, urban blight, loss of historical identity, and recent upswings in street crime (not too surprisingly, Alan Delaney recently moved from London to Melbourne, Australia).

I'm partial towards this book for two reasons. First, I was first exposed to photography (no pun intended) when I was just a wee lad in the late '60's in England. Back then, most photography was still black-and-white, and because I lived outside of London, everything that I remember seemed to be images of downtown London. In fact, even though I was only five years old, I have some recolection of a black-and-white TV montage of London that accompanied Petula Clark's hit "Downtown". So when I came across "London After Dark", everything seemed to come together for me: my faded memories of London, my new interest in night photography, and (the second reason that I love this book) my recent love of film noir movies (which, I recently learned in a film studies class, is a style, not a genre).

You can pick up a used copy of London After Dark for as little as $13 on Abebooks.


Blogger Joe Reifer said...

What do you think of Brassai's book "Paris by Night?"

And if you're watching noir films, haev a look at Jean-Pierre Melville's "Le Samourai." I had a long discussion at a photography workshop in response to the question "What are your favorite movies?" This one made the top 5 list.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Andy Frazer said...


"Paris by Night" (1933) is clearly one of the landmark night photography books. I plan to write a whole blog post about Brassai soon. I'm also going to write about Bill Brandt, who was a peer of Brassai and a big influence on Alan Delaney. Bill Brandt photographed London (A Night in London (1938)) under the ultimate dark conditions: the mandatory "black outs" during World War II.

10:51 AM  

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