I’ve been using light painted, full moon-lit night photography to capture the abandoned American West for 25 years. Telling the story of the ghosts of America’s Western Expansion, from a post-wild west, post-Route 66, 21st Century perspective has become a never-ending source of inspiration. My documentarian, yet surrealist–sometimes playful, sometimes haunting work examines the final days of decommissioned military bases, NASA installations, derelict ocean liners, airliner boneyards, Hollywood prop graveyards . . . and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of abandoned amusement parks, train stations, factories, hospitals, gas stations, hotels, even entire towns–and the intensely exhilarating, yet strangely comforting act of sneaking around in the middle of the night, creating art from their ruins.
I only shoot at night, by the light of the full moon, using minutes-long exposures to capture the palpable passage of time onto a single frame. I augment the scene with hand-held light–frequently colored–during the exposure, treating the site like a dark stage set, using theatrical and cinematic techniques to manage the composition, create mood, and lead the viewer’s eye. It’s about tightly controlling the scene, even though the scene itself is wildly entropic and out of control. Through my workshops and e-books, my low cost, high impact lighting techniques have inspired legions of photographers, all over the world. The “Lost America” body of work is a true original.
Since 1999 my website has gone viral repeatedly, spawning 10s of millions of hits. My imagery has appeared in print, in over a dozen countries–including three Stephen King book covers–and two award-winning monographs: “Lost America: Night Photography of the abandoned Roadside West“ in 2003 (Motorbooks International), and “Night Vision: The Art of Urban Exploration” in 2008 (Chronicle Books). The work has appeared in museums and galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Sweden and San Francisco. In 2010 and 2011 I appeared as a guest judge on the Singapore reality TV show The Big Shot.
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