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A Dark Portrait of Mid-century Palm Springs: ‘MIDNIGHT MODERN’

A Dark Portrait of Mid-century Palm Springs: ‘MIDNIGHT MODERN’

Midnight Modern is a collection of large-scale works by Melbourne-based photographer Tom Blachford. Captured under the light of a supermoon, Classic Palm Springs mid-century architecture become the moody subject.


Shot over two separate trips—the second one timed to coincide with the super moon—the series suspends California’s famous ’50s and ’60s modernist homes in an eerie half-light. Describing the project, Tom says he set out to explore “the relationship between the moonlight, the forms of the houses and mountains as a backdrop.” Deepened by shadows and dashed with stars, each image represents a 30-second exposure. The results appear both deserted and uneasy.




These buildings might be iconic, but in Midnight Modern they seem to sit outside of time. This will be the third exhibition in the 2014 program at Modern Times. Director Amy Malin says, “When I first saw Tom’s evocative depictions of mid-century Palm Springs architecture, I imagined admiring his spectacular Edris house image, looming large over a Hans Wegner sideboard. I can’t wait to see these haunting, modernist streetscapes exhibited alongside our vintage furniture pieces from the same period.”

The series focuses on houses built in Palm Springs between 1955 and 1965, by California’s Alexander Construction Company. Designed by architects William Krisel and Dan Palmer (of Palmer Krisel), these sold by the thousands in various estates through the valley. The exception in the series is the 1953 Edris house—designed by architect E. Stewart Williams to appear (as he famously said) not to have fallen from the sky, but instead to have grown from the desert.




From the artist:

“Shot over 2 separate trips the images explore the relationship between the moonlight, the forms of the houses and mountains as a backdrop. With our eyes and brains simply unable to process the dimly lit scene resulting images leave you as the viewer confused as to how such an image could exist before us but never be seen. Time is compressed from 30 seconds into one viewable moment. The stars blur into dashes to remind us that even seemingly immovable steel and mountains are actually spinning on a grand scale as our earth rotates on its axis, and in turn around the sun.”



Opening 6–8pm, Thursday 2nd October | Modern Times – 311 Smith Street Fitzroy

Exhibition Dates: 2–16 October 2014

Modern Times

Tom Blachford

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