About A Glass Eye and Three Wooden Legs

 Stephen Hall

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My fascination with urban night & low light photography is part of a continually evolving relationship with the landscape and the depiction of such through the camera. I am primarily a landscape photographer and I see streetscapes, buildings and modified environments as another aspect of the landscape. I seek to explore the world around me and depict the moods it inspires through my camera.

I use mainly Black & White film and a large format (5"x4") camera to get the highest quality images possible. Large format photography requires a slow and contemplative approach to image capture which best suits my attitude towards the landscape. My night-time photographs may have exposure times of an hour or more.

Just as with my wilderness photography, with my urban architecture photography I strive to exclude the signs and indications of day to day human presence;  people, parked cars, traffic, etc. from my images. I strive for a timeless appearance where the streets and buildings are the main players; the subjects not the stage, in the image without distraction from the bustle of humanity. This can be exceptionally difficult; shielding my lens against every passing car can double an exposure time and require me to be constantly attentive throughout the exposure,  otherwise perfect compositions may be rejected due to a single parked car and an oblivious driver may park a car in the midst of a shot and cause me to cancel halfway through. Many shots in this portfolio, whilst looking simple are the product of repeated, painstaking attempts to capture a pure image. And whilst I use photoshop for my 'darkroom' corrections of contrast and density, I never use it to delete unwanted subject elements.

I consider myself a print maker as much as a photographer and the digital inkjet process has, for me, opened up a whole new level of precision in the craft of image making. After more than a decade of commercial darkroom work I am glad to have discovered a process that frees me from hours of darkened rooms and toxic chemicals. Having said that I am currently experimenting with the 19th century Gum - Bichromate printmaking process.

I worked in the photographic industry for 15 years before returning to university to study Geographic Science. I have work shown in exhibitions in Adelaide, Cairns, Toowoomba, Natimuk and Cygnet. My work has been published in RACT, Wild Magazine, Australian Conservation Foundation & Wilderness Society Calendars and Diaries.

My first solo exhibition, 'Peripheral - Images of Regional Victoria', was shown at The Goat Gallery in Natimuk in December 2011 to great success. Contact me if you would like to see the Peripheral Gallery Page.

I am currently living in Wodonga, Vic.

I will be displaying my work with the Ballarat International Foto Biennale Fringe Festival at The Unicorn at 127 Sturt St. from 19 August - 17 September.

Feel free to contact me on (Aus) 0476 515 750.

Night-time on a lonely street in a country town or a quiet suburban area. The roads are devoid of people and no cars pass by. The constructed landscape looms large and dominates your attention in a way you've never seen them before. You could stand here for an hour or more and never be disturbed or distracted by a single passing car or human presence. This is what these photograph show, and as we all know, 'The Camera Never Lies"...
Except when it does...

The truth is that these photographs are the outcome of far more work than is apparent from the photograph itself.

We can stand on a quiet street at 3 AM and feel that the world is deserted, because that is how we feel compared to our daily lives. The camera, however, may show the occasional passing car, dog walker or aeroplane which we wouldn't register.

Most of the photographs presented here needed to actively exclude some marginal indication of human presence. Usually it's cars driving past, where the headlights or taillights would create a bright, linear streak across the photograph in just a few seconds. Sometimes it's a cyclist or a dog-walker wearing reflective high-vis. Once or twice it's been an aeroplane whose lights will blaze a path across the sky.

Whenever I need to excluded an occurrence from the imaging process. I use a matt-black card which I hold in front of the lens until the interruption has passed. I count the seconds passed with a stop watch and add them to the total exposure time.

Many of the exposure times here are not so seemingly long, until you realise how much lost time was not recorded that contributed to the creation of this photo.

 On a busy street, a 15 minute exposure may take well over 30 minutes, with more time spent shielding the lens from brightly lit intrusions than actually capturing the image. And a long exposure is subject to more problems than just the unexpected intrusions of unwanted players upon the stage.

So the process of capturing a night-time image is to be constantly vigilant and to expect many failures. Sometimes I will return to a subject over and over to retry a shot that had failed due to shake or intrusion.

Whilst I have been careful to record the effective time of each image, I have never recorded the entire time it took to capture that image.

Usually the camera is invisible to the world it observes, just like the fleeting parade of transient actors it ignores as they pass by its lens.

But occasionally a curious onlooker stands in front of the camera to ask what you're doing and I have to move them aside. I've been asked if I'm operating a speed camera (I say NO, it's a SLOW camera). I've been asked if I'm spying on people when my camera was pointed towards an empty park bench. I have interrupted a car theft, broken up an assault, been hit on in a notorious pick-up park, followed by a stalker, been offered money to take portraits and been threatened to have the police called a couple of times. I have also met numerous police patrols who have always been friendly, interested and completely helpful


'Camera shake', an issue usually cured by using a tripod, comes back into play during long, urban exposures. Wind and ground vibration are constant sources of shake, enough to spoil an image.
The image of the Main Street of Natimuk is one I had attempted 4 times previously and each time the photo was ruined by semi-trailers thundering down the road creating wind gusts and ground vibrations strong enough to blur the image. Eventually I chose the quietest part on the night and shielded my lens for much longer before and after a truck visit...???



Many times an interaction occurs that leaves no trace on the image. The pedestrian who walks through the image for 10 seconds of a ten minute long photo will not even be a ghost. A car in the evening without headlights will fade


Photography Background:

Associate Diploma in Commercial & Technical Photography

Worked as Photographic assistant at 'Van Elsen Studios' SA

Managed professional E-6 Photo Lab 'Colour Perfect'

Worked as Wedding & Portrait Photographer, Cairns

Left Professional photography to complete an Environmental Science Degree


Solo Exhibition: 'Peripheral' at The Goat Gallery, Natimuk, Vic - 2011

Group Exhibition at the Natimuk Frinj - Skylines Gallery - 2011

HAEG Art exhibition, Cygnet, Tasmania - 2007

McGregor Prize exhibition, 2 prints highly commended- Toowoomba USQ - 2005

Java Joes Cafe Gallery - Prints on Display - 2004

Open House Private Exhibition, Adelaide - 1998

Stills Gallery, Norwood, SA - Group exhibition - 1997

State Library SA - Group Exhibition "Graduating Images" - 1992

Two prints acquired by The Horsham Regional Gallery for their permanent collection