The quality of darkness and the luminosity of winter nights

I like when artists emphasize darkness in photography and film. To me, it is not negative space, but an essential part of the space. Just like all colours are essential parts of a colour photograph, all tones are essential parts of a black and white image to me. If anything, the darker spaces are exciting because they challenge your eye – outer and inner – to see more, to see what is in the darkness and the shadows. What I love about a photographer such as Roy Decarava is how he uses exactly those ideas in his photographs to tell very powerful stories and convey powerful images.

One thing that I don’t like about most movies is that there is rarely any darkness. There is always some light somewhere lighting the protagonists. It’s as if there is a fear that people will complain if they have to use their ears and their imagination. I’d like to see more films where much of it is shot in near darkness such that the audience is more engaged in the film.

There is a quieting aspect to darkness or near darkness. We sleep in that state, or we watch movies or plays or concerts. We become quiet and still. We contemplate, dream, express our inner selves more than we do in the fast paced brightness of day. This is a quality of darkness too.

Looking out on the backyard tonight, what I realized, as I have before, how
it is that ‘dark’ really isn’t once your eyes get used to the light that is there. This is especially the case in winter, when the sky turns light gray with clouds and the fallen snow has a luminosity all of it’s own even without street lights or house lights. If it is snowing it can actually get quite bright, even at midnight, as the snow falls and sparkles. Some nights can be brights as days.

At this time of year in Canada there is also the luminosity of house lights and Christmas trees that shine on as the end solstice nears and Christmas is celebrated. Despite long nights, there is much light.

And as we pass through the bleak midwinter, I like to warm it up with tea
lights and roaring fires. Though it be dark, the darkness is tinged with that glow of burning logs and burning candles. And when finally when all that is spent, I can go to the window and given some time to adjust, my eyes can eventually see much that is visible, though it is very late, for in the darkness there is more light than we may have suspected, and much to see and enjoy.

These are some of the things that I thought of while I looked on the snowfall arriving tonight at midnight.

Thanks for reading this. Enjoy your night.

(Originally posted on posterous, December 15 2010, 9:53 PM)

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