Midnight Modern

Tom Blachford shoots iconic mid-century architecture by moonlight. We're smitten by 'Midnight Modern'...


Caught between dream and waking, Tom Blachford's magical-realist photos of classic Modernist architecture are on show at Sydney's Black Eye Gallery in Darlinghurst until Sunday 12 June. What makes the images in 'Midnight Modern' so alluring – apart from the Mad Men-esque residences, cool vintage cars, turquoise pools and towering palms – is that all were photographed during a full moon, bringing a unique light (or should we say darkness?) into the frame.

ABOVE: 'Abrigo Corner I'
BELOW: '888 Regal'

A chance discovery one night led to Melbourne photographer Blachford's love affair with the interplay between architecture, mountains and moonlight. Seeking to avoid the cliché of snapping California's Palm Springs in sunlight, he tried a nocturnal shoot and was blown away by the moonlit glow. Focussing on the desert resort city's iconic mid-century homes, he spent several years revisiting the area, capturing the evocative landscape under five full moons, including a supermoon. The ongoing series is cinematic, tinged with an air of unreality, as if the buildings were model kits or advertising fantasies – sometimes hyper-real and glossy, other times darker, shadowed and more unnerving.

BELOW: 'Frey II'

Shot close to midnight, front on, using long exposures that stretch out passing stars, Blachford's eerily otherworldly yet glamorous images have a dash of a David Lynch movie about them, stripped of people yet high on colour-rich style. Despite their artificial look, the lighting is wholly natural, with no post-production meddling. What man-made illumination there is comes from domestic house, garden and car lights, backdropped by looming desert rocks, cacti and trees.

BELOW: 'Los Robles Affair I'

Working covertly originally, but then in cahoots with the community, Blachford has gained access to inspiring properties including Richard Neutra's 1946 Kaufmann House, Frank Sinatra's legendary 1947 estate Twin Palms by E. Stewart Williams, and the Frey House II by Albert Frey, as well as restored Alexander tract pads. Beautiful, surreal and haunting, his pictures beg the question: "Is anybody home?" and, more mysteriously, "Is anybody out there?"

'Midnight Modern' is at Black Eye Gallery, 3/138 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, Sydney, until this Sunday 12 June 2016 (open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm)
All photos by Tom Blachford, available in three sizes from Black Eye Gallery. Prices vary for different editions; framed or unframed.