Palm Springs is an endless stretch of flat desert dotted with palm trees, flat roofs, modernist architecture and jade-coloured backyard pools. It is a classic cinematic set, cradled by boundless sky, a backdrop of towering rocky mountains and the Joshua Tree National Park. The scenery has become the subject of an ongoing series for photographer Tom Blachford. Since 2014 the Melbourne-based artist has revisited California, enraptured by Palm Springs and its bygone-era, mid-century modern mansions. This week, the most recent instalment of images has arrived in Sydney at Black Eye Gallery.
Called Midnight Modern, perhaps the most enchanting element of Blachford’s desert-city series is that it is shot by moonlight. “The series was born out of a desire to find a new way to shoot the city, which has been the subject of so much attention and admiration over the past 60 years,” he says. “The homes are photographed by people from around the world from sunrise to sunset everyday, but it seemed no one had tried to shoot them when the sun went down and the moon came out.” Using long-exposure shots, and under the light of the full moon, Blachford’s images are otherworldly. Stars stretch out across the sky, throwing soft romantic light across Lynch-like lawns and homesteads. Blachford intentionally avoids any signposts of the present day - his photographs offer a similar stylistic precision as the TV show Mad Men. Each photograph is a mis-en-scene, coloured with dramatic tension.
“For me, the photos act like portals in time, the scenes exist almost exactly as they would have 50-plus years ago. I also experimented with some new effects, such as freezing the stars to still points, and using wet roads as an homage to the era of film noir,” says Blachford. “I wanted the images to be nostalgic for the generation that lived through that era and enticing for my generation, which missed out on experiencing it first hand.”
Midnight Modern is at Black Eye Gallery from May 24 until June 11. blackeyegallery.com.au