Robert Earnest – Last Night

In between running errands on Saturday I managed to slip into the Pendulum Gallery to view Robert Earnest’s exhibition (part of the Capture Photography Festival). This body of work which consists of Earnest’s personal work was the most enjoyable that I have viewed throughout the festival. Robert Earnest is a commercial photographer who trained in California, but is now based in Vancouver, Canada. Four years ago he was involved in a car accident and this episode put his commercial career on hold for a while. Part of his recovery therapy involved taking long walks and he did this in the early hours of the morning, mostly in the early dawn hours.

Photo by Robert Earnest

The photos were all printed on glossy paper and displayed behind glass under quite bright lights which unfortunately created quite a bit of reflection in most of the images, which also showed up in the photos that I took, so I can’t share some of the ones that I would like to draw attention to.

Mysterious and suffused with theatricality, these photos reflect an in-between time, neither day nor night, in which structures, objects and light take on anthropomorphic qualities in the absence of human activity.

Pendulum Gallery Media Release

In his artist’s statement Earnest states that “the colours of the night are more pronounced and quite different than colours and light quality during daylight”. Decisions have to be made on whether to colour balance to fluorescent lighting or to sodium-vapour street lighting. There is no right answer at night he says – only different. One can see this where he photographs mundane subjects like a pedestrian crossing in a semi-rural area. The crossing is placed at the centre of the frame with the viewer looking across the road, as if to cross it.  A copse of trees are on the far side of the road illuminated by one street light. There is an unearthly, mysterious feel as the light penetrates only slightly into the thicket of trees, leaving one to wonder what lurks beyond. A grassy median bisects the road and crossing, offering temporary respite and a final opportunity to retrace one’s steps.

Mundane objects like wooden steps in a grassy embankment take on a new life at night and his use of diagonal, horizontal and vertical lines and colour contrasts create a very dynamic composition.

Photo by Robert Earnest

I particularly liked his play with white balance. There are a few photographs of misty mornings where Earnest has used a sodium vapour white balance or a cloudy balance and this had warmed up the mist and created a rather ethereal and eerie atmosphere. I do have to say that it was also quite enjoyable to view images of places and landmarks that are familiar to me. Knowing what they look in daylight, makes me appreciate this body of work even more.

There is an underlying calmness to this body of work that speaks of a healing process too. The images vary from murky to vibrant possibly reflecting this process.

My photos of Earnest’s work obviously do not do it justice, but his work can be seen on his website at: http://robertearnest.com/sliders-list/last-night-slider/ .

Reference List

Pendulum Gallery (2017). Robert Earnest | Last Night [online] Pendulum Gallery. Available at: http://www.pendulumgallery.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Earnest-2017_Media-Release_Pendulum-Gallery.pdf [Accessed 30 April, 2017]

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