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  • Writer's picturej_a_laing

black door (low-sodium)

Updated: May 26, 2022

The night before, cycling home in the dark, I'd noticed a low sodium light I hadn't seen before. I'd been getting lazy about taking out the tripod as I often go out on my bike to shoot at night, and several recent shots had been disappointingly soft, so the next evening I drove and took it with me. After a few minutes in the cul-de-sac immersed in orange, I began to focus on the play of light on the black painted wood of a door and window, and the glass, and the flattening and flaring that was happening every time I shifted position. On the tiny camera screen the composition looked interesting, but my eyesight isn't great and as usual with night photography, albeit digital, I didn't really know what was there.

Later, when editing, I concentrated on highlighting what I had tried to capture. I slightly boosted the exposure, played around with whites and blacks to suggest my attention and lived experience; catching the glints is like panning for gold; with tiny physical shifts they slip away out of reach under duller objects as if they never were there. The reflection of trees is what I had been after. It's there, in the top panes, disrupting depth perception and making the same material out of wood and glass. There's an uncanny sense of an impossible inside, of abstract branches drawing an unsettling dream. Until I saw the condensation on the inside of the window, I didn't know it was a home.

I hadn't even noticed the staircase. My first crop cut out the context behind because I didn't like the car bonnet curving into the frame but when I looked again I liked the contrasting geometry, which I only noticed when I was reducing the glare of the LED light on the grass.

There was something familiar about the image I produced. Later, it made me think of a print of Vermeer's The Little Street which had hung somewhere in my parents' house for years. I've been clearing out their belongings following my dad's death and had briefly looked at it a couple of weeks ago. I thought it was a street scene, like my photo, without human figures. I googled Vermeer's painting to study his composition. There are three female figures I hadn't previously noticed, linked by white, entirely engrossed in their domestic activity. Their presence made me wish I'd been quick enough to capture the delivery driver who had just walked out of the shot. I can go back, and wait.

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