In 2015, architectural photographer and artist Tom Blachford released Midnight Modern in Palm Springs during Modernism Week. For many (our editorial staff included) it was love at first sight. With this photo series, Blachford captured the desert city lit only by the light of the moon—documenting and defying time all at once. Blachford paused the sublime natural world and honed in on its relationship with manmade splendor. Meticulous framing envelops dreamlike scenes that truly exist in the California town. From debut to exhibition and onward, Blachford’s series has only grown in acclaim. Last year, he released a book. This year, he concludes the series with an exhibition at Toth Gallery.
Blachford acknowledges a sense of personal completion that accompanies this series. “I do think this is the end,” he says, “The series has been such a wild ride and over the course of five years has totally changed my life.” That said, he adds, “I feel I have photographed all the homes that I wanted to shoot when I made my dream list many years ago. I’m also interested in exploring new forms of lighting and abstraction beyond what the moonlight can offer. Truth be told, I’ve also totally fallen for post-modernism so I’m looking forward to exploring another style of architecture and expression in my images.”
Palm Springs is very much about access—meaning a tremendous amount of the design and architecture is hidden. As the series progressed, Blachford was able to explore much more. “I went from sneaking around the streets at night not knowing a soul to waking up to an inbox full of home-owners begging me to come and shoot their houses. It was a really crazy progression.” Through the series he built relationships—and adopted an emotional second home, quite far from his birthplace in Melbourne, Australia.
“It was a journey starting as an outsider and very much becoming an insider. I actually just married my longtime partner Kate Ballis last week inside one of my favorite houses,” he says. “I fell in love with it many years ago, well before I knew the owners or anyone else in town. The owners are now great friends and insisted we tie the knot in their backyard, it was a dream come true.”
Perhaps the biggest departure in this most recent series installment happens to be imagery focusing more on futurism—breaking the typical Palm Springs mold. “The series has always been about ambiguity of time, with viewers unable to work out whether the images are shot day or night, in 2017 or 1957,” he explains. “For this [part of the] series, I loosened the shackles and focused on some of the more wild modern interpretations of modernism which really opened up the possibility of these images being taken some time in the future, as well. The aptly named Futuro house is actually older than any of the other homes but looks straight out of a sci-fi universe.”
Differences aside, Blachford infuses each photograph with mesmeric majesty. Viewers wish they could step in, open the car door or sit by the pool. Blachford’s gaze is drawn to a specific beauty that his skills then translate into something both of our world and not.
Midnight Modern is on now through 4 November at Toth Gallery, 195 Christie Street, New York.
Images courtesy of Tom Blachford