I’m now over 100 images into my evening.camera project. That’s not 100 days of shooting, mind; I tend to shoot one or two nights a week, and can usually get between five and ten shots for the project each night. But still, 100+ images is nothing to be sneezed at — let alone the umpteen others that get shot each time I go out, but which never get used.
I’ve become fascinated, I’ve realised, with the early evening — particularly what gets referred to as the blue hour, just after sunset. More specifically, I’m obsessed with the transition from blue hour to night time, when the artificial lights take over, creating pools and pockets. It’s interesting to try and use these as a compositional tool: that window there, that spot of light there… now wait for people to step into both at the same time, walking in opposite directions. The gesture of the moment is something that I look for (and, truth be told, rarely find. When I do find it, though, I’m in heaven).
There’s a lot to be said for the liminal space between light and dark. We don’t perceive those spaces in the same way that a camera does. Our vision grants us the ability to blend the scene all into one, but a camera can’t do that, and so separates things out: light, dark, public, private, shadows and deeper shadows. Somewhere in there there’s a hint of meaning sometimes, a tale to be told.
I’ve been spotted a few times when I’ve shooting. So far I’ve had no real confrontations with anyone. I’m sure that will come at some point. I try not to be intrusive — I’m not there to make anyone’s day worse. I’ve managed to pull off some shots using technology that wasn’t available to me two years ago — the wifi on my X100T allows me to make a picture whilst the camera is upside down at my hip, without anyone actually noticing that I’m doing it. Composing the image upside down on a smartphone is a bit like using a really tiny view camera. Sometimes it works, sometimes – most times, I guess — it doesn’t.
As the days are getting longer the evenings are getting a bit harder to chase. Now I find myself sitting in a coffee shop for half an hour, waiting for the crap grey drear of Manchester to fade into something blue and interesting. That said, as the weather starts to improve I expect to be able to shoot more at sunset, or in the golden hour, and find new stories to tell. I’ve no doubt that in summer I’ll be out at night, when my only companions are revellers and the sun has barely scratched the horizon.
I reckon I’ll get a year out of evening.camera. That wasn’t my intention when I started, but it seems fitting. A year of stories of liminal light, transitory fragments of my life. Perhaps I’ll do a book.
If you want a much better thought out and more artistic view of light at the edges of the day, you should check out Simon Buckley’s beautiful Not Quite Light project, which takes my breath away. He’s much better at this than I am, but he is, it seems, a morning creature. I don’t get up that early any more, so the evenings are my favourite time. I like the humanity of it.
Funny to think of two photographers like that — me stalking the evenings, Simon stalking dawn twilight, both of us trying to find stories in our own way.