Meet the Artist Shooting #NoFilter Photos by Moonlight
Tom Blachford shoots Palm Springs’ swank, midcentury mansions using only lunar illumination.
"Abrigo Corner I." Courtesy of the artist
Instant gratification is de rigueur in our hyper-connected world. And whether pointing and shooting or snapping and chatting, getting the perfect shot has never been speedier. Australian photographer Tom Blachford is slowing things down, however, with Midnight Modern, his series of long-exposure landscapes shot in Palm Springs under cover of darkness. The moonlit scenes, juxtaposing opulent architecture with the raw landscape, seem suspended in time.
Blachford discovered Midnight Modern’s aesthetic by accident; in 2013 on a trip to Palm Springs, he ran out of time while photographing the city and continued into the night. Blachford found a house he liked, setup a tripod, and snapped a photo by the light of the moon. The result was haunting and sparked subsequent trips. “Early on, before I worked out how to focus using lasers, I used to creep up onto some doorsteps and hold my iPhone in front of my face so that Kate, my partner, could lock focus,” Blachford tells The Creators Project.
Since then, Blachford has refined his technique. He works with the community to shoot a mix of high-profile properties, like the Kaufmann house and Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms, and more common buildings, like the numerous Alexander tract homes built between 1957 and 1966. “I look for certain things when I’m hunting down homes: I target those with as many original features as possible, great landscaping, and ideally a view of those incredible mountains behind Palm Springs,” Blachford says. “I think that the mountains are just the most perfect backdrop imaginable for the architecture. The juxtaposition of the incredibly sleek, straight lines of the homes and the wild, curving mountains and natural landscape is amazing.”
Though the subjects are inanimate, Blachford’s photos exude energy and anticipation. “The thing I find most fascinating is the way that these scenes, and in turn these images, act as the set for a narrative. Both imagined and real, these homes have played host to countless dramas and stories, and they invite the viewer to imagine what is happening behind the walls. I want to create a tension in the images, as though they are the still frames of a movie just before or after some intense action,” Blachford says. Though easily appropriated, the photos are hardly retouched. His shutter speed is slowed to a crawl to let in every beam of moonlight, yet Midnight Modern captures unfiltered reality.
“I’m usually a pretty impatient person, so this series has taught me to slow down and meditate on the process,” Blachford says. “I have fallen in love with the anticipation of waiting for the image to emerge. Standing in the darkness you can see quite a lot and make it out each element of the scene: the house, the mountains, and the cars, but it isn’t until it pops up on the screen in two dimensions that you realise how incredible the scene is when taken in all at once.”