Today has been one of those rainy Thursdays of a perhaps, not so usual but familiar Kansas October days. This evening I have felt reminiscent of days past. I suppose I’ve felt this due to watching some videos on YouTube from back in 2006; but also due to the seasonal changes that have gone on lately, the summer shifting into autumn. The rain has accentuated this even more, especially so when combined with the autumn chill that has come at twilight.
The darkness, rain, and autumn chill have awakened something inside me I only experience this time of year, although it’s something I’ve only been able to recognize as of this semester.
Here’s some context. In my art history class, we have learned about the baroque, rococo, romanticism, neoclassical periods, etc. One painting style we learned about was tenebrism. This comes from the Italian tenebroso, which means “murky.” The style is also known as dramatic illumination. One painting exhibiting the tenebrism style is Martyrdom of St. Andrew by Jusepe de Ribera. What I’ve recognized in me has to do with my photography. I’ve noticed that around this time of year, especially on the chilly, wet autumn nights is really where this tenebrism style has taken hold of my art style (although, any somewhat chilly and somewhat rainy nights will suffice). I have nothing against tenebrism, it’s just something I’ve noticed, and thoroughly enjoy.
Something else I’ve noticed in other photographic artists, most particularly of Alfred Stieglitz of the early 20th century had a kind of tenebrism in how he did his art, more particularly in his night photography, such as Icy Night, or From the Back Window, 291, or even Sun Rays–Paula, Berlin. There’s many more of his photos I could list, because I’m sure Stieglitz knew his art history, saw the paintings done in the tenebrism style, liked what he saw, and incorporated that element into some of his works.
I’ve recognized my fascination with tenebrism, and knowing this, can make my imitation of the style get better. I find it a joy to walk around on nights when it has rained, seeing the reflections of street lights and building lights on the cement and asphalt that makes up the sidewalks and streets. Even on summer nights, I enjoy when it’s rained, and you can feel the heat rising from the asphalt, and see it rising as steam. The wet and steamy summer nights and wet and chilly nights of autumn are truly sublime, and make for some truly wonderful photographs (not to mention a few becoming a bit ethereal).
Your photography friend, Andrew.