Into the Night by Niklas Zimmer is a collection of long-exposure, film-based photographs taken at night in Cape Town. Curated by Jacqueline Nurse, the series was on show at Salon 91, a contemporary art gallery in Cape Town, from 30 May to 23 June 2012.
“In this series of nudes, still lifes and cityscapes, Niklas Zimmer has used the night and the process of photographing with long exposures as an allegorical backdrop for a politics of personal path-finding through ambivalent terrains of consciousness.” – Salon 91 press release
Zimmer works with a professional dancer and her nude form is the subject of many of the photographs. Her body is lean and flawless in the 21st century western notion of the ‘ideal’ female form. This gives a kitsch quality to the work, rendering it delightful or rather annoying – depending on your personal stance towards kitsch. The nudes reference Vladimir Tretchikoff’s exoticized and eroticized paintings of women. Tretchikoff’s distinctive aesthetic glamorizes the female form, with green or blue hues exaggerating bodily curves and unbleshmished skin. In previous work, exhibited in Tretchikoff and Me (Salon 91, 23 June – 31 July 2010), Zimmer overtly referenced Tretchikoff by staging models to appear like the painter’s subjects with a make-up artist creating the distinctive coloured skin tones. This time around, the photographer imitated this aesthetic by lighting the model with photographic colour gels. Zimmer is an expert at light painting – a technique of applying light by means of a hand held torch to the subject being photographed. His skill is most discernible in the photograph of the nude in a bathtub, entitled 01:33.
In a postmodern self-referential fashion Zimmer reveals his use of colour gels in the photograph 22:55, an arresting image despite its reference. Another striking photograph, which Zimmer identified as his favourite, is 01:24 – a cityscape with an illuminated bush in the foreground. As with 22:55, this photograph also references the process of night-time photography, but in a less obvious way. The blurring of sections of the bush reveals a long exposure and the evidence of wind. The same can be observed in 20:40, showing a nude twisted in an uncomfortable pose inside the confines of a walled suburb garden. The slight blur of her body reminds the viewer of the model’s breathing, exaggerating the tension evoked by the juxtaposition of a nude with barbed wire.
Due to the use of colour gels, the hues are vibrant and, at times, heavily saturated – a welcome change to the overabundance of the fuzzy and antiqued aesthetic popularized by Instagram.
All images from Salon 91.