New York Photo Review
Volume 4 Issue 28 June 25 to July 1, 2013

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

The Night People
Wendy Paton
Nuit Blanche

Photo by Wendy Paton . Source:
Wendy Paton, "Masked" 2009.

The dark, mysterious, and engrossing images in Wendy Paton’s new exhibition “Nuit Blanche”–– which are also in her new book “Visages De Nuit”– leave little doubt that she is as much a creature of the night as her subjects. For six years, Paton prowled the streets and nightspots of major cities like New York, Paris, London and Chicago, and captured a series of portraits that often vividly illustrate the loneliness, solitude and mystery of the night as well some of the pleasures shared by its denizens. Catching intimate moments of partygoers and others in clubs and cafes, Paton is the proverbial fly on the wall, a voyeur with a Leica who is ignored by her subjects; their attention is directed elsewhere. Karen Sinsheimer, Curator of Photography at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art said, “What Paton has so beautifully conveyed visually is what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow expressed so poetically,” We are ships that pass in the night...only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.”

Photo by Wendy Paton . Source:
Wendy Paton, "Dealmaker " 2009.

Paton’s stunning high contrast silver gelatin prints, some as large as 30 x 40 inches, beckon the viewer to participate in the evening’s activities. There are stories being told, people whispering, smiling, dealing, hugging, dancing – this is their world. Bathed in shadow, Paton’s night people are usually visible enough to remain recognizable.

Photo by Wendy Paton . Source:
Wendy Paton, "Unmasked " 2009.

One example is “Masked, 2009” which shows more than half of a woman’s face masked by shadow––her companion’s face more visible but not by much. You can see they’re both enjoying themselves and you wonder, ‘who are these people?’ In “Embrace, 2009,” the man’s back is almost invisible and there’s barely a hint of the woman’s face – only her arm on his back and her hair are highlighted. You feel you’re almost standing next to them. In “Finger Food, 2009 Paton offers another perspective on night.” Apparently on a staircase, she’s shooting down at a restaurant table occupied by several women. A waiter stands to the right, passing a tray of finger food to other guests. It looks very casual but there’s more here than meets the eye. That’s the beauty of the night.

Photo by Wendy Paton . Source:
Wendy Paton, "Symphonia Dance " 2009.

“Sans Souci, 2011,” is a portrait of a woman who is actually looking at the camera, or at someone next to the photographer. She’s smiling, slightly out of focus, another night person having a good time. Who is she? I want to know, though its my least favorite of the 12 images on display. Still, together these pictures offer a tantalizing view of a way of life most of us will never know—or want to.

Wendy Paton
Nuit Blanche

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