“Nightfall: The Silence of Space” is an exploration by three contemporary photographers into the expressive potential of manmade environments. Devoid of people, their images become eloquent and meditative portrayals of stillness through depictions of panoramic cityscapes, grand historic interiors, or urban parks. Each of these subjects can be thought of as multi-faceted dramatic sets that serve as the backdrops to human activity. The spaces quietly wait for life to unfold and remain silent before the action. Each photograph, with the viewer as the sole inhabitant, enters into a space from a safe distance and specific point of view, to scrutinize rich worlds that sustain multiple meanings and encourage a range of feelings.
Eugène Atget, an innovator of documentary photography, photographed Paris with the idea of the architecture as a type of theatrical scenery. His influential pictures were generally taken during that particular time when the darkness of night gives way to dawn. History regards Atget as the first “modern” photographer. A century later, using quite different photographic techniques and processes, André Lichtenberg and Michael Massaia similarly capture the ambiguous time when night yields to day and vice-versa. In their photographs night is an empty palette and a void that is filled by the architectural subjects presented in the images. Exemplified by Massimo Listri’s interior photography, the images function as elaborately composed set pieces. From deftly chosen viewpoints, all three photographers use a sophisticated method for compressing a multitude of spaces into a two-dimensional image, and work with geometric visual depth cues to create immaculately composed, highly dynamic, immersive treatments of interior and exterior architecture.
André Lichtenberg’s images have a unique aesthetic quality created by combining dreamlike childhood memories with a highly technical and scientific working practice. These two strains are expressed through his striking images most commonly depicting architectural environments with little human element. Technically masterful, his “Within” series is comprised of hundreds of images of cities such as New York, London, and Paris merged into one composite view. The purpose is to present a city with more information than what is possible with a single click of the camera. His imagery invites contemplation on the purely physical nature of a city in stillness. Within Lichtenberg’s “Vertigo” series, the artist shoots from a skyscraper in London’s Canary Warf, photographing straight down the side of the building leading the viewer’s eye down a vertiginous line of perspective. At once abstracting the world, Lichtenberg’s unique take on the purely formal qualities of a metropolis creates awe through the regularity of a manmade world. Lichtenberg was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil and now resides between Brighton and London. He has worked with publications such as the Sunday Times, London and Le Monde, Paris and his images have been recognized with several international prizes and awards including the Aesthetica Art and exhibited in spaces such as the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
In Michael Massaia’s nocturnal landscapes of Central Park, abandoned houses, and amusement parks, light takes on an uncanny and radiant quality in the atmospheres devoid of any human presence. The exposures are made between 2:00 AM and 5:00 AM with a large-format camera that records and defines the light that comes out of darkness. Disconnection, revealing and concealing, and an attempt to present the ordinary in a unique manner are constants in all of his work. Night serves as the backdrop in which the photographer can record an almost infinite patterning of light and create a world based both in reality, and in our collective imagination. Massaia grew up in New Jersey and has remained dedicated to the New York City metro throughout his life. He has devoted himself to merging the eye of an artist with the qualities of a chemist to display astonishing technical talent in his understanding of the dark room. Having perfected negative exposure and processing, and even having built his own cameras, Massaia is a compulsive perfectionist. He has exhibited extensively throughout the United States showing his technical and compositional aptitude to a wide audience. Massaia’s work has been featured in television documentaries, written about extensively in major photography magazines, and was a recipient in the 2013 Hearst 8 x 10 Photography Biennial.
Massimo Listri’s tranquil vision is coupled with a desire to create pure studies of grand spaces. His images capture the majesty of the structures, but also reveal the smallest details with a power to expose the secrets and stories contained within them. Born and residing in Italy, Listri had an early fascination with photography and architectural spaces thereby developing an intuitive sense of perspective and equilibrium. His use of only natural light sensitive film and long exposure lends a strong sense of mystery while also instilling a sense of calmness within the masterful compositions of palaces, libraries, churches, theaters, and museums. Psychologically rich and full of signs and symbols, the images invite viewers to ponder the histories of these celebrated spaces suggesting a mythology for the structures. The expression “If only these walls could talk…” seems salient. A fascination permeates the interiors when every person has disappeared and what remains is simply the splendid architecture to host untold stories. By finding and photographing spaces that have aesthetic and historic wealth, he preserves their beauty and simultaneously enhances their history. Listri has recently exhibited extensively, including the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the Morgan Library in New York, the Benaki Museum in Athens, and was honored to be the first contemporary artist to exhibit his images of the Vatican Museums within the very space.
“Nightfall: The Silence of Space” is an exhibition rich in variety, in subject matter, and in photographic styles which is meant in summation, to be anything but silent.