American born poet Galway Kinnell once wrote:
“I know that I love the day, The sun on the mountain, the Pacific/Shiny and accomplishing itself in breakers, But I know I live half alive in the world, Half my life belongs to the wild darkness.”
His poem “Middle of the Way” is about his solo hike up a mountain, but this passage, and much of this poem in fact, can be applied to many things. I see, in my life, how I too love the sun, love the day, but my heart loves the wild darkness. I’m no stranger to the wild lights of night, either and I believe it shows. In Kinnell’s poem, to paraphrase, in reminding yourself that “half your life belongs to the wild darkness” you will bring yourself to experience, as Kinnell calls it, “An inexplicable sense of joy, as if some happy news had been transmitted to me directly, by-passing the brain.” Akin maybe to an inner sense of peace.
It holds true that joy is often a determination of purpose. For me, this roughly translates into creating work with a strong sense of purpose. This can be hard to do as an artist. Believe it or not, we sometimes have to try very hard to be authentic, in part because we are led many ways, pulled in many directions. Doing night work itself is a good example of this. Many people don’t understand why you would want to do night work and many people don’t understand how, if you do night work, you would ever want to shoot both day and night. But, that’s how the universe unfolds sometimes. We end up doing both, in part because our vision, our voice as an artist really, drags us in two different directions. I don’t see my night work much different from the work I do in the daytime, it just comes from a slightly different place and it tells a slightly different tale, that’s all.
Fragmentation aside, I do get the sense of joy reference from Kinnell. It’s not lost on me, as I consider myself a creature of the night in many ways. I’ve always loved the night. I love the way cities look, I love driving downtown with the sunroof open, watching all the twinkly lights of the city flicker before me. I love the loneliness of it, the desolation, the lack of hustle bustle. I love the way shops look at night, especially after they have closed for the day, with mannequins illuminated waiting for tomorrow’s customers. I love light trails and midnight subway rides, late night diners, and all night laundromats. It’s in these sorts of things, this kind of night, where I really enjoy the wild darkness. I do, I honestly feel that half of me belongs in that environment, even if just for a little while. In some ways, I could not imagine being “only” a day photographer. I couldn’t imagine putting the rig away the moment after the sun sets. I have to have my dosage of nighttime, really I do. In a way, it’s what keeps me going.
I don’t think my night photography is earth shattering, no, I don’t think it reveals anything especially special or magical. In fact, you could say it’s all a bit ordinary and, frankly, I would accept that. You see, it’s not about finding the unusual. It’s not about the different. It’s about that quiet place inside of each of us-that solitude we each enjoy. For me, that wonderful place is, in many ways, the wild darkness. Half of me belongs there and I celebrate it fully.
Until next time…