The Met Opens "Night Vision: Photography After Dark"

Posted by David Ozanich — 27 Apr 2011

night2.jpgAusstellungs-Gebäude der Kölnische Zeitung auf der Internationalen Presse-Ausstellung Köln [Exhibition Building of the 'Kölnische Zeitung' for the International Pressa Fair, Cologne], Werner Mantz, 1928


The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City unveiled a new photography exhibit yesterday titled "Night Vision: Photography After Dark." I'll let you suss it out for yourself what that show is about. So says The Met:

At the turn of the last century, night photography came into its own as an artistic genre. In the early years of the medium, capturing images under low-light conditions was nearly impossible, but by the early twentieth century, faster films, portable cameras, and commercial flashbulbs freed artists to explore the graphic universe of shimmering light and velvety darkness that reveals itself in the hours between dusk and dawn. Modern camera artists were captivated by the many moods of electric light: the softly shining globes of street lamps, glittering skyscraper façades, dazzling neon signs, the intimate chiaroscuro of lamplit rooms. Night photographers were also particularly fond of rain, snow, ice, and fog--for both aesthetic and practical reasons. Wet pavement and rising mist can lend pictures an atmosphere of lush poetic reverie; they also reflect and diffuse the available light, shortening exposure times.


In the 1930s, inspired by the pioneering work of Brassaï in Paris and Bill Brandt in London, photographers began to turn their attention to the social life of the city at night, from the convivial hubbub of Little Italy's Feast of San Gennaro to the top-hatted elegance of opening night at the opera. Others were drawn to the gritty underworld of nocturnal outlaws or to lone figures on the margins, picturing the night as a shadowy realm of pleasure, danger, and transgression. More recently, artists have delved even deeper, adapting techniques of police and military surveillance (hidden cameras, searchlights, infrared film) to pry into hidden corners of the night, driven by an ageless desire to make darkness visible.

Sounds kind of fabulous to me. So what's on view on the 2nd floor in the museum's Howard Gilman gallery?

Among the featured works are moody Pictorialist nocturnes by Edward Steichen and Alvin Langdon Coburn; shadowy street scenes by Brassaï, Bill Brandt, and Robert Frank; electric light abstractions by Italian Futurist Giuseppe Albergamo; and aerial views of suburban Los Angeles at night by contemporary artist David Deutsch.

The 40 or so photographs in the exhibit are all culled from the Met's collection. Some date back to as early as the 1890s while others are contemporary.

The show, which opened yesterday, is on view until September 18th. Information on visiting is here. See more images from the show here.

night1.jpgHuman Head Cake Box Murder, Weegee, ca. 1940

night3.jpgLondon, Robert Frank, 1952

night4.jpgAvenal, California, Stephen Tourlentes, 1997

Via Gothamist.

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