A nighttime photograph taken underneath a bridge, with a white Cadillac in the foreground.

Skyway Bridge, Chicago (2023). All images © Dave Jordano, shared with permission

“Night photography is one of the most challenging aspects of photography, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much,” says Dave Jordano, whose atmospheric images cast landscapes in a unique light. The Chicago-based photographer gets to work after the sun goes down, traversing the streets of cities and towns, most often across the U.S., where he seeks illuminated  corners, architectural curiosities, and urban idiosyncrasies.

“For me, it’s mostly about the quiet solitude, the empty streets, sometimes surreal nature of a city that looks and feels as if it’s frozen in time,” Jordano tells Colossal. His photos invite us on a journey through American towns in the late hours when they are not often observed, devoid of people yet hinting at their presence through an illuminated kitchen windows or an open tavern door. He adds, “The pace of everything slows down, and time becomes irrelevant. Under this artificial light, the buildings often take on a theatrical look as if they’re performing for me, showing me their best side.”

 

A nighttime photograph of a small, green house with a large power plant cooling tower behind it.

Green House with Cooling Tower, Michigan City, Indiana (2023)

Working at night presents a technical challenge, as the medium fundamentally relies on light to produce clear images. “The harsh, contrasty street lighting and the deep, dark shadows challenge even the most experienced photographers to test their limits of creativity and technical expertise,” Jordano says. Advances in digital photography significantly aid the process since images can be viewed immediately on the back of the camera rather than needing to leave the scene, develop film, and hope for the best. And the art of post-processing is “a major part of producing night photos with any kind of enduring quality.”

Jordano approaches his subjects as if they are “mature actors, starting to lose their polish,” spotlighting the qualities of their locations or the patina of age using only the existing light sources, like street lamps, porch bulbs, or ambient background illumination. “Bringing these characteristics out is one of the most enjoyable things that I try to do, making the viewer see these places in a way that hasn’t been revealed before,” he says.

Last summer, Jordano embarked on a five-week road trip around the Northwest to document the region, resulting in more than 300 photographs that he hopes to compile into a book. He is currently sharing many of these images on Instagram, and you can explore much more of his work on his website.

 

A nighttime photograph of the facade of a bar with bikes outside. The entryway is lit glass block, and the sign above the door reads "Temple Bar" with a "T" shaped like a cross.

Temple Bar, Midtown, Detroit (2022)

A nighttime photograph of an industrial building with old blue paint illuminated by a light, with cars parked outside.

Back Lot, Havana, Cuba (2016)

A nighttime photograph of a street corner with a street lamp and a brown building with a sign on the side that reads "purity."

Purity, Fort Bragg, California (2023)

A nighttime photograph of a cemetery with numerous styles of headstones, a tall cross, and a chapel in the background.

Saint John Kanty Catholic Cemetery, Northwest Indiana (2022)

A nighttime photograph of an illuminated yellow motel sign with the single-story motel in the background.

Paxton Inn Motel, Paxton, Illinois (2018)

A nighttime photograph of a small church with the sign that reads "Hermanos Jalisco", with a house and a large watertower in the background.

Small Church, Marshalltown, Iowa (2023)

Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member today and support independent arts publishing for as little as $5 per month. The article After Dark, Dave Jordano Photographs the Idiosyncratic Personalities of American Towns appeared first on Colossal.

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