I came across this article on BBC News called ‘Night-time in America’a small towns’ and the photos immediately grabbed me. UK based Photographer Daniel Freeman made a trip across America while deliberately avoiding major roads and cities. What really drew me in are the elements that make a great photograph NOT scream, “Hey! I’m a photo with ALL the right techniques!”. The clarity of the shots impresses itself on you after looking at a few photos but what kept me looking was the lack of photo-shopping. I couldn’t find any trace of what I call ‘instaslamming’ everything in an attempt to create unreal reality. Having shot at night myself I firmly believe these are honest and, without question, beautiful photos.
I made a reference to ‘photo technique’ in the last paragraph so let me explain: Simplify, simplify, simplify. Remove unnecessary distraction. Ratios and patterns. Draw the eye. These are all techniques and things we read and learn as photographers. I see many photographers go to the extreme and many more try too hard to fix everything in editing. Removing things that were there and hyper coloring things that weren’t. Shooting at night, as Freeman’s photos demonstrate, lets you isolate without editing out. The night almost gives you more freedom because elements that would be distractions during the day become muted into the background or a textural part of the foreground.
I love Daniel’s photos because, when you look deeper after the initial amazement, you see the telephone poles and trash but it doesn’t create negative feelings. He could, as so many do, edit those out digitally but he didn’t and I love it. The night lets you fuse, blend and use elements that you might want to ignore during the day. I want to encourage more photographers to include real life in their photos. When you feel compelled to remove that stop sign or tourist from your photos I tell you don’t do it! Use those things. Recompose your shot! They are life and life happens. There is a lot of life in Daniel’s photos despite there being no people and there is a lot of technique and skill but most would never know it.