For me, taking and editing photos is a therapeutic experience. After a long day of class, creation and conversation, I take comfort in the thought that at the click of a button I can capture a canvas worth manipulating later. Best of all, the canvas is never blank; it comes ready-made with shapes and forms and structures to work around and within. Especially when editing photos taken at night, when the drama between light and dark is heightened by limited illumination from street and window lights, I enjoy using the composition that already exists as a guideline for where to fade completely to black and where to allow color and light to remain.
With this photo set, I actually aimed to alleviate the tension between seen and unseen elements, either by emphasizing clean lines or showcasing gradual transitions between light and dark. I hope that when a viewer observes these photos, he or she does not feel compelled to strain to see details that are hidden by darkness, but can instead view each image holistically, a testament to editing that successfully naturalized (at times, unnatural-looking) transition zones.
The word “natural” here is confusing. Wouldn’t it be most natural to leave the photos exactly as they were when taken?
Even if the objective answer to that question is “yes,” addressing it leads me to an interesting realization about my own work: my editing was/is intended to make these images—and the world—conform, above all, to my own sense of normalcy. It’s the opposite of world-building; it’s reducing the picture of what already exists into more palatable pieces, where elements, like theatrical props, can be strategically illuminated or shrouded to achieve their maximum aesthetic potential—and I have control of the lights. This is all, of course, illusory, but nevertheless therapeutic.