A couple of months ago we had the great pleasure of interviewing the accomplished Tom Blachford (read part I again here) about his cult status photographic work and especially his Midnight Modern series. With a body of work that stretches across continents, Tom has received a hefty dose of renown for his photographic works which cleverly straddle the often opposing commercial and artistic sides of the creative space. This often allusive ability warranted exploration and, mixed with Tom’s wonderfully refreshing and soul-searching approach to our interview, meant presenting it as an extended two-part series was well and truly justified. With an exhibition of his Midnight Modern series opening at Toth Gallery in New York this Thursday, it seems Tom Blachford’s career has hit a sweet spot.
OJ: Congratulations on your upcoming NY exhibition Tom! Your Midnight Modern series that will feature has a lucid dream, saturated quality more utilised in moving film. Urban nighttime scenes devoid of humanity yet harboring a disconcerting nostalgia. Almost David Lynch(esque). Where does this aesthetic come from and what are you trying to convey in your images?
Tom Blachford: Shooting long exposures at night was something I became obsessed with very early on. I loved how the camera could act as this bridge to another world just beyond my senses. Where I saw only darkness it could see through that and into this other realm that was just out of reach of what my brain could process. I remember feeling like it was magic at the time. I left long exposure behind for quite a few years to concentrate on following a path that seemed like the way to go with photography but in the end was not for me. Midnight Modern was my first return to those roots and visceral feelings of wonder that my camera gave me.
Shooting at night for me is a way to inject some mystery into what might otherwise be familiar scenes. I think the most interesting art, the kind you want to go back to over and over, is the work that asks more questions than it can answer. Since our time as cavemen, the night has been a time of uncertainty, a time to avoid. Nowadays our relationship with the night is different but intrinsically its still a space of uncertainty, we never know what might be hiding in the shadows. I love that.
I’m trying to convey a sense of mystery and bring forth people’s natural responses to darkness as well as to architecture and the built environment.
OJ: Midnight Modern established a turning point in your career. It seems this body of work was a pivotal moment that threw your photographs into cult status. How did this change the future direction of your work? Did it propel you into a more fine art direction for example?
Tom Blachford: Midnight Modern completely changed my life. It was the first body of work I had really created from the heart and from a place of play and exploration. To find it was so well received was incredibly gratifying and important to know that my instincts were of more use to me than anything else I had ever tried in my career. Up until that point, I had been losing at someone else’s game and not playing my own, so to speak. My ideas of what was possible in photography were shaped entirely by seeing what had already been done, not trying something new.
I was also struggling with a bad case of imposter syndrome and had a hard time identifying as an artist. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be called that for a very long time. My brain works in a very deductive manner – that’s how I shoot – so when I deduced that if people were buying my work as art to proudly put on their wall it was probably about time I started feeling like I deserved to call myself an artist. It was a profound shift in the way I viewed myself.
OJ: What was the moment that made you decide to shoot Midnight Modern? Was it passion or was it more a direction you wanted your work to head?
Tom Blachford: I think, like all great things, it came from a place of play with zero expectation placed on the outcome. I went out to shoot for the joy of it and in the process tapped into something unique along the way that captivated me and by chance happened to resonate with the zeitgeist at the time. I feel very lucky for that. The hardest part now is getting back into that zone and trying not to spoil newly forming ideas with expectation and desperation.
‘Jennings House II’ of Tom Blachford’s Midnight Modern series
OJ: Do you see an opportunity for further expression in this nighttime aesthetic? Will you return to it in future work?
Tom Blachford: Absolutely. It’s still a very interesting way to approach things for me and something I’m hoping to keep adapting. My Midnight Modern series used moonlight to cut through the darkness and create scenes that looked almost rendered and un-believable. In my Noct Angeles series, I wanted to convey something a little more sinister, more Lynchesque so I tried to use the city lights to create cinematic moments that had a sense of tension and paranoia, which is how I had always felt in LA. My Tokyo series Nihon Noir was set in the future and used the night to translate the neon-drenched blade runner vibe that really stayed with me after my first visit to Tokyo.
My next series is actually going to be entirely computer generated (in collaboration with the brilliant Mr. P Studios) and will be set at night as well.
On The Rocks II by Tom Blachford
Open Journal wishes Tom all the best with his Midnight Modern exhibition at Toth Gallery in New York which runs from October 19th until November 4th 2018.