Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Steve Harper

This week marks the launch of the website of one of the most significant people in the history of night photography: Steve Harper (congratulations to Tim Baskerville for scooping me on this one.. but, Tim and Steve have known each other for 15 years, so I can't complain that he beat me to this one).

Steve Harper taught the world's first college-level course on night photography. This was at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco in 1979. This course formed the basis for the current community of night photographers in San Francisco, including photographers such as Tim Baskerville, Lance Keimig and Tom Paiva (although, Lance and Tom have since moved to Boston and LA, respectively).
(photo: Steve Harper)

"No other discipline so readily advances Art's longest and most fervent hope, attainment of a Fourth Dimension, as Night Photography. Its images flow free in timelessness."
-from "Night Light, Five Visions", Steve Harper, 1981

Many of today's digitial night photographers might not appreciate why an art college would even need a course on night photography. But keep in mind that back in the 1970's, when we were all shooting on film, night photography presented a number of technical hurdles that had never been sytematically studied (in particular, reciprocity). One of Steve's primary objectives in those early courses was to begin with an educated guess at correct film selection, exposure and development time, and then experiment to determine the best processes to practice night photography.

I met Steve Harper at one of his last public appearances at The Nocturnes night photography workshop back in 2002. I arrived about 20 minutes early for the workshop because I had to drive up from San Jose. Steve arrived a few minutes later, and we hung out and talked for about fifteen minutes.

Within the next few months, I will be filming an interview with Steve Harper, conducted by Tim Baskerville, for the next version of my night photography documentary film "The Night of the Living Photographers". We plan to preview the new material at the Mono Lake Night Photography Workshop in August.

In case you missed it, here is Steve's new website.

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.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Exhibition: Abandoned After Dark

Four Bay Area night photographers; Joe Reifer, Lane Hartwell, Rikki Feldmann and Steve Walsh, will be having an exhibition of their work at the Lucky Ju Ju Pintball Gallery in Alameda, CA, from July 7- 31, 2006.

The Lucky Ju Ju Pinball Gallery is a great little place in Alameda loaded with vintage pinball machines (the ones with silver balls, not joysticks and LED screens). In the interest of fair, disclosure, I admit that these four photographers are all friends of mine. I've been shooting with them at night for the past year (and we are, I believe, all still friends). I'm looking forward to the reception on July 7th.

For more information, check out Lucky Ju Ju's website or Joe Reifer's website.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Joe Reifer

One of my original goals for the night photography blog was to talk about night photographers other than myself. This includes photographers who have influenced my work, photographers who have published noteworthy photography books, photographers who I shoot with, and last but not least, photography sites that I've stumbled across on the internet. Of course, they all need to be night photographers. We're not talking about those people who need daylight to operate a camera.

One of the photographers who I shoot with at night recently updated his website, so this would be a great time to mention him. I met Joe Reifer a year ago when we were both shooting out at Treasure Island on a very overcast cold summer night (remember, this is San's not unusual to be cold in the summer and warm in the winter). I was with my "gang" that night, and he was with his "gang". Our two gangs collided with, fortunately, a happy outcome. That night I met three new night photographers, and that connection eventually lead to meeting two more night photographers (all of whom I will eventually feature in this blog). In July, a few of those photographers, along with Joe, will be having a show of their work in Alameda, CA (more details to come).

(photo: Joe Reifer)

The photo above is one my favorite of Joe's recent shots.

Here is the link to Joe's website, and here is the link to his Flickr photos.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

More Michael Kenna Interviews

Michael Kenna's website has a great collection of links to other interviews that he has done with leading art and photography magazines; including Photo Review and, my personal favorite, Lenswork. They're all worth reading.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Michael Kenna Interview #1

Do you remember Tim Baskerville, of The Nocturnes? In the July, 1995 issue of Camera Darkroom Magazine, Tim interviewed Michael Kenna at length about his photographic style, and about how his work is built on the contributions of photographers before him. This is a very informative interview, and it was one of the original things that really peaked my interest in Kenna's work four years ago.

(photo: Michael Kenna)

This interview was reproduced in the Preface for Kenna's landmark book Night Work.

Friday, May 12, 2006


A few days ago I mentioned Michael Kenna and how he has influenced so many night photographers. About two years ago, The Nocturnes organized a night photography project to shoot the Embarcadero area of San Francisco, followed by a show at Fort Mason and South Beach Cafe. Below is my photograph that I submitted to show.

(photo: Andy Frazer)

Much of the Embarcadero isn't very interesting from a night photography point of view, so I focused on the pilings and old piers along the waterfront. I have no problem admitting this shot, as well as most of what I shot that night, was influenced 100% by Michael Kenna's style.

Not only was this my first opporunity to display my work in a public venue, but the above photograph even received a very favorable mention in the SF Weekly Magazine.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lenswork and Night Photography

I just received my new copy of LensWork magazine in the mail today. The photograph on the cover of this issue is (drum-roll, please) a night photograph! ... By Chip Forelli.

I tried to find a thumbnail of either Chip's photograph, or the cover of LensWork, but couldn't do it. So, you'll just have to take my word for it. The photograph appears to be a barn and a few silos photographed under a fairly bright moon and some great star trails.

If it's featured in LensWork, you know it has to be quality work. I've subscribed to a handful of black-and-white photography magazines over the past eleven years, and I truly believe that LensWork is, by far, the best. I would go so far as to say that it's the best of all the photography magazines out there (both black *and* white [and color]).

LensWork is available by subscription, as well as from Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mono Lake Night Photography Workshop

Lance Keimig and Tim Baskerville (my two original instructors from the Nocturnes night photography workshop) have just announced the final schedule for the Mono Lake Night Photography workshop to be held near Mono Lake this August 5-8th.

(photo: Andy Frazer)

This year the workshop will be organized as a conference with inclusive presentations and lectures, followed by night photography trips to Mono Lake, Tioga Pass, a burned-out (ex) Jeffrey pine forest (the name of which, none of us have been able to identify) and Bodie ghost town. Hands-on workshop instruction will be offered as an option. But don't listen to me. Just read the details on the link above.

I attended this workshop two years ago. I met some great night photographers from the East Coast, learned a lot of new tricks, and really had a blast. Also, I almost "accidentally" visited an unscheduled ghost town at 2am... but that's another story.

Note: It's almost impossible to get access to Bodie at night without special (i.e., expensive) permits. So, if you're thinking of stopping by there some night on your own, don't bother. This isn't the neighborhood cemetary. The Mono Lake workshop is one of the few ways to get access to the ghost town at night.

Thanks to Joe Reifer for brining the workshop announcement to my attention.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Michael Kenna

Most night photographers would agree that Michael Kenna is one of the most-respected, and most imitated, night photographers. Although some of Kenna’s work is actually taken during the daytime and processed in the darkroom to look like night work, much of his work is 100% genuine middle-of-the-night photography. He has been doing night photography since the late 1970’s, and has authored over a dozen books of his work.

(photo: Michael Kenna)

The above photograph is from Easter Island (2001, Nazraeli Press). Kenna has been so busy publishing books of his photography, that he already has two retrospectives in print, and he also releases a calendar each year, available from Photo-Eye.

All of Kenna’s work is in black-and-white; usually square, and usually quite small. Trained at the Banbury School of Art (UK), Kenna is not only a master of the craft of black-and-white printing, but his photographs capture that stark, desolate feeling that most night photographers try to attune themselves to in the middle of the night.

Kenna has been a huge influence on many contemporary night photographers, including Bill Schwab, Rolfe Horne, David Burdeney, David Frokos, Adam Moore, Lance Keimig and many others (including myself). In future blog entries, I plan to highlight each of these photographers.

If you're not already familiar with Kenna's work, you owe it to yourself to spend some time browsing through the galleries of his website.

Monday, May 01, 2006

North of Tracy, CA

Two weeks ago, I talked about Troy Paiva’s gel-lighting work. Troy’s technique has been a big influence on my night photography, such as this shot that I took at an abandoned hotel just north of Tracy, CA.

(photo: Andy Frazer)

Not only was his technique an influence on this shot, but it was his idea to go out and shoot that old building that particular night last November.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I had a serious case of the heeby-jeebies that night. It’s an old hotel full of ghosts of the people who visited the spa (who I knew were watching me), and it’s surrounded by cattle (which we could hear, but never saw), an underground spring (which we could also hear, but couldn’t see) and huge palm trees that sway and rattle in the wind.

Combine that with crystal clear skies, mild weather, and a full moon. Night photography doesn’t get any better than that.