Friday, October 13, 2006

Magic Hour

Years ago I read a book; the images that the book created in my head are still with me.

The book in question; called 'Magic Hour' is the biography of Jack Cardiff, a cinematographer, and incidentally the first trained technicolour cameraman in the UK.

He got the job - against stiff competition - because the other camera men went in and talked about physics, and lenses, and technical issues. He went in and talked about Rembrandt.

He worked with Powell and Pressburger, shot the African Queen, produced travel documentaries, and writes eloquently about the time of day as the sun sinks, and the world turns a mysterious shade of dark blue. The hours around twilight do something magical with film; turn it into a place where the world seems somehow unreal, and precise, and sad, all at once.

Images sometimes hit me like that; either the strong mental images from good writing, or glimpsed images in books, on posters, in the street. They catch you, and niggle at you, until you pay them attention, look at them more, let themselves print themselves on you.

A few weeks ago I wandered through a bookshop, and saw a beautiful art book, with a cover that looked like a film still - a woman walking away from a spun-out, steaming car, at twilight. The image hasn't left my head since - it reminds me of William Eggleston, or Cindy Sherman, or... something from a forgotten movie. Something shot by Jack Cardiff.

It turns out it is by a photographer called
Gregory Crewdson; thanks to Dan I've just found out that his work is in an exhibition at the V&A called 'Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour.

And I now know what I'm doing this weekend.

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