a nice chat with Stu Jenks on night issues

By Natasa Radovic and Stu Jenks

25 September, 2001

Stu was a juror of a Nocturnes exhibition a little night music, and these are his words about my awarded work cinema: "... excellent composition with numerous planes of light and image... in this image, I can hear the music." Thank you Stu, now it's your turn...

Okey Natasa....let's do the interview

Natasa: Is the night photography represented enough in photographic world (photographers, galleries, museums, workshops...)?

Stu: I think so, and it is growing....I believe however that it is important that nocturnal photography is seen not just as a trick, but as a tool to express an idea, that happens to take place at night

Natasa: What is your method while selecting/awarding works for a little night music, is the traditional approach towards photography (exposure, composition, subject...) prior to the night issue (the element of surprise, the wheather conditions, the experimental nature of making the night photography?

Stu: Frankly, my choices as the juror for The Nocturnes "A little night music" show had a lot to do with 'did the artist follow the criteria of the exhibition?"...Did the artist find and/or create ryhthem, motion, dance, etc. that was musical, or did the artist just paste a musical name to their work than may have been very static or of subject matter that didn't fit. After doing that I looked for composition, idea, taking chances in the medium and such....but as I told a friend, when you get right down to it, I picked what I liked and what I had an emotional connection with.

Natasa: What elements are you "always" familiar with while the night is painting your night photographs?

Stu: Hmm, Interesting question. At times I am aware of the time of the exposures...others it is the moonlight....or the streetlights...but "always"? What I strive for in the noctural (and daylight spiral work) is to be present with me, present in the moment, to feel the wind of The Everything, in me and through me to help with everything from the choice of materials to when to close the shutter.

Natasa: a part dark, decay, death, rituals, mystery... can night photography has a full, 360° expression as THE photography has?

Stu: Absolutely, as long as it is a tool toward communication and not just a gimmick. I've been doing night photography since the early 90's, but it didn't really resonate with myself and others, until I began my Circles and Spirals series in 1997. Then and now, I have a context, a box to push up against, a restriction to freedom that creates more freedom. The series has moved out of night photography and back again, depending on the idea and the wind. Yes, nocturnal photography has mystery, but it must elicit more questions than just "how did you do that?"

Natasa: Technically speaking, do you find that long exposures are contradictory to the common understanding of photography (stealing a moment that is gone forever), while freezing a long lasting moment, don't we use it as a video camera, but impressing all the changes of light just in one shot.

Stu: Yes I do at times, collect large chucks of time. I recently did a 4 hour star circle at my folks' place in rural Virginia that second night after the Terrorist Attacks in NYC and Washington. Usually there is much air traffic at night on the Northern Neck of Virginia from Atlanta to Washington so past star circles has the straight lines of aircraft dissecting them. But I realized on those few nights, no commercial planes were in the air. For me, It's a photograph of what isn't there, as much as the beautiful arcs of star around Polaris. Again, It's form and idea, not form vs. idea. And yes the four hour exposure of stars is contrasted against static image of my family's old shed/dining room. But it's isn't the time. It's the image and the idea.

Natasa: And finally, how do you see, find useful, The Nocturnes site?

Stu: If I recall correctly, I submited some work to a Nocturnes show, and afterward, they asked if I would be willing to donate some digital images to their permanment collection, in which I was honored to do. I believe The Nocturnes give night photographers a forum to share ideas and techniques, as well as an opportunity to see wonderful work of the known and unknown artists in night photography. Again, I feel blessed by their generosity to me. As many people get to my site, via The Nocturnes link, as do folk just looking for Stu Jenks on the Web. Plus they are nice people as well.
Thanks, Natasa for asking me to participate in this on-line interview. It has been a pleasure and a joy

Love, light and Luck

Stu Jenks
Fezziwig Photography