Night Lights

C.J. Presma



a multimedia exhibition

April 3 - May 5, 2014

Opening April 3rd

Three consecutive shows at:

6:00 PM-7:00 PM and 8:30PM



In the early seventies I saw Frederico Fellini’s film La Roma. I had always admired his films, but this one had a very special effect on me.  There was one scene in the film where we saw a street car  powered by electrical wires overhead.  It was at night and where the car junctioned from one street to another sparks from the wires flashed and in an intense moment illuminated the cityscape.  

The Fellini imagery did not have an immediate effect on the photographs I was making at the time.  It did create a need  to replicate this  powerful light effect.  By the mid-to-late seventies it began to manifest itself in a series of photographs I made in the Southwest with long exposures at dusk and bursts of flash or strobe light.  Of course these images had nothing to do with the scene in the Fellini film except that they conveyed the effect of the flashes of light and created a surreal mood

 Later, I named these first images the Ghost Town Suite.  The conditions I needed to make these pictures provided a significant obstacle to making very many.  I needed the right kind  of natural light, (usually dusk), a powerful flash or strobe, and a subject that was conducive to surreal  imagery.  From time to time these conditions came together.  In New Orleans in the cemeteries, other times in the Southwest, and in the aftermath of the 1974 tornado in Louisville.  

In the Summer of 2012 I spent several weeks in Northern New Mexico making photographs.  One day a guide  took me to the remote site of an abandoned 1800’s cattle ranch that overlooked the Pecos River.  There, quite by chance, the conditions to make the Night Lights images came together. I could see a storm brewing miles away and as the time passed the late afternoon light combined with storm clouds was  spectacular.  Dusk creeped upon us and I opened  the strobe unit and made a number of pictures.  And of course, the ruins of the cattle ranch in all its decay created a naturally surreal environment.   It was a truly exciting time and I knew the resulting images would be successful.

On my return from New Mexico and after processing and making proof prints of the shoot I had a real hunger for continuing with the Night Lights pictures.  I  worked with picture editing software to enhance and create  the Night Lights effect in other pictures.  I also asked myself why I was drawn to these images?  

The Night Lights pictures are surreal and foreboding.  Some are wonderfully textured and toned, but they convey a bizarre or dreamlike “landscape”                                                                                                                   that often engages the viewer. The power of the flash of light suggests that the subject is being destroyed or eroded as the flash washes out the detail in some of the foreground.  The light, particularly at dusk, tends to isolate the primary image making the visual statement simple, but powerful.

I have always wanted to take on the challenge of putting still images with audio in a traditional exhibit format.  In the Night Lights exhibit I have created multiple soundtracks for a number of the images.  These are heard while viewing the prints.  I have also created a primary audio piece which will be presented at specific times during the opening reception along with some other special effects.