Nocturnes and Noir Exhibit

February 11, 2017 – April 2, 2017

The Nocturnes 25th Anniversary

The title of this exhibit reflects our hope to shine some light on two schools of thought re: Night Photography (NPy). The first, a romanticized landscape photography of Nocturnes traces its origins to the late 19th century, the Pictorialism movement, and later on, the efforts of the Photo-Secessionists. It is noteworthy that a number of the photographers practicing within the Pictorialism / Secessionist ethos (Steichen, Struss et al.), a decade – maybe even a few years – later, can be found showing work that falls thematically or stylistically within the purview of a new Modernist aesthetic, as promoted by the Group f/64. So, even at this early date we find a fluidity of intent, as the lines of distinction were being drawn.

The second style of NPy – Noir – was heavily influenced by German Expressionism, Surrealism, and associated, as early as the 1920s and 1930s, with the newly formed cinema, which attained its apex in the Classic Film Noir period of the 1940s and 1950s. In an intensely urban, between-the-wars period of angst and uncertainty, photographers like Bill Brandt and Brassai echoed the dark vision of the Film Noir tradition with surrealistic content; punchy, “contrasty” scenes; and heavy darkroom manipulation.

Of course, for the post-modern-day Somnambulist, things are not so cut and dry. There are artists producing work that might well be described as Nocturnes or Noir, or something – Neo-noir? – in between – an ambiguous “grey area” of focus. We are reminded that it was that way, even in the days of Stieglitz, Steichen, and Struss. These days, Crewdson, Kenna, and Keimig roam freely in a nocturnal milieu of their own making, carrying the “torch” forward into the Night. }

Opening Reception: February 11, 2017, 5:30pm – 8:00pm

Dates: February 11, 2017 – April 2, 2017

Venue(s): Harvey Milk Photo Center (50 Scott Street, San Francisco)


  • Tim Baskerville, Director, The Nocturnes Night Photography Group
  • Dave Christensen, Director, Harvey Milk Photo Center


Page image credits: Photo by Michael Kenna, Courtesy of Dolby Chadwick Gallery, Design by RE Casper

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