City night or homage to the artificial light



With the introduction of artificial light it was possible to photograph the city at night. There was also something to photograph. The street lights invited people into the streets. The difference between life during the day and life at night became smaller.

Street lights also had a big disadvantage: light pollution. The satellite pictures of Belgium at night are well known: a bright triangle in the middle of Europe. Astronomers are very unhappy as their stars have become nearly invisible.

Street lights and artificial light give an artificial sense of security. It would nearly take away the fear of the dark. An American study proves the opposite: artificial light supports vandalism and theft. Thieves and criminals also like to see what they are doing. In addition, they are less noticeable. The light of a flashlight in the night draws more attention than a person standing under a street lantern.

Street lights inspires photographers: nearly every photographer has during his carreer felt the need to go out at night with his camera to capture the magic of the night.

Robert Kayaert shows us a different night city. In the middle of the night he photographs Brussels in the 50s and 60s. Christmas decorations, streets full of theatres and strollers. Robert Kayaert is one of the first belgian photographers who takes pictures the American way with a 35-mm camera. His pictures are close to the New York school of Magnum photographers. The pictures are taken out of the series "Les métiers de nuit" made for the RTBF.

Danger in the night!

The fear of darkness and the night is real and threatening.

The night is conceived by most people ( I apologize for this generalisation ) as a threat. The night stands for lechery and ruin.

As a result there aren't a lot of people on the streets at night, making the night nearly safer than the day. But if something happens at night, the media blows it out of proportion. An interesting contradiction.

The night is sensational because of the unknown.

Georges Ménager ( French photographer who worked for Paris Match ) shows the street prostitution in France.

In addition to the French street prostitution we have the nightclubs and nightlife in general. Fun and pleasure are the good sides of the night. Is it an escape from reality or a way of life? No judgement. Only the pleasant conclusion that the night is the key to liberation of restrictions.

Another proof of the dangers of the night is the press photo about the street protest of May 68.

Fire is the most sensational against the dark background of the night. The press photos of the fires are impressive. But not impressive enough because the flames were emphasized with paint by the photo-editors.

Discover this exhibtion ....

Xavier Debeerst

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