Like a classic film director, Tom Blachford is a master of creating atmosphere. The young Melbourne-based photographer captures iconic architecture at night and turns every scene into a place of mystery. His first journey to Palm Springs inspired this turn toward cinematic night photography, and a more recent midnight shoot in Tokyo took it to an interesting new place. Below he shares his portfolio and explains how he learned to use moonlight and street lights to show the film noir and sci-fi scenery all around us.
I wanted to capture Palm Springs in a new light. That became quite literal when I went out to shoot one night and realized it was a full moon. I was blown away by the results. I had been trying a lot of different things, so this approach came out of a place of play. In my experience, that’s where the best creative work comes from.
Midnight Modern (Swipe left)
The recipe for Midnight Modern is pretty simple — long exposures of modernist houses in Palm Springs at moonlight. The town has a really unique set of conditions. It’s in a desert, so there are few clouds most days of the year. There are no street lights in the old areas, so there’s very little light pollution. And so, when the full moon comes out, the town really lights up.
I obviously had to approach Tokyo differently. There are a lot of cinematic to one found between street lights and neon lights and and all the colorful pollution. I tried to make the light an asset rather than a hindrance. That meant lots of searching. We walked a gigantic radius around the buildings we wanted to shoot, trying out every staircase, rooftop, bar, window, and overpass, to get the perfect shot.
Both series are inspired by Film Noir. In a way, they span the history of the genre. Midnight Modern was inspired by early color noirs, like North by Northwest, where they actually shot a lot of stuff at night that looks really similar. Nihon Noir is oriented more towards later noir like Blade Runner and then Drive and Only God Forgives.
I’ve always been a night owl. To me, the most interesting art asks more questions than it can ever answer. Night time has always been this time of mystery and uncertainty. That makes it a natural terrain for an artist.