A Photo For Sunday – Atmosphere

Lighting is everything. As is setting…

Amsterdam. Photo published in 1977, courtesy of Vogue magazine.

It has just stopped raining. The light is delicious. The street glows in the reflected gloaming, as a vehicle’s taillights cast their radiant wake in the  damplight. It’s an album cover shot – shades of Ziggy Stardust or perhaps an Edward Hopper painting.

The combination of the banal and the everyday; the ubiquitous and socially upright Peugeot 504 berline, silhouetted against the decadent pull of the strip bars and empty promises of the wider Amsterdam nightscape is, to 21st century eyes at least, a striking visual metaphor.

What is interesting about this photo, given that it was published in a 1977 copy of Vogue magazine, is the vintage of cars parked on the streets. Of those which are discernible (and you may identify more than I have managed), all appear to date from the previous decade.

But it is not so much the substance of the image that matters here, as the spirit – the feeling it evokes. It speaks of ordinary lives transcended, of the (often shallow) promise of Saturday night on the town, of illicit pleasures, taken hastily in the dark.

Isn’t this what we live for? These transient moments in time?

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

7 thoughts on “A Photo For Sunday – Atmosphere”

  1. Good morning Eóin. The evocative image makes me wonder if, like vinyl records, photos taken on film rather than digitally have a rather different quality to them. I would imagine that the trail of the tail lights resulted from the slow exposure in such limited light conditions. Presumably, that never occurs with digital images? I (clearly) know nothing about photography, digital or otherwise.

    As to identifying the other cars in the image, I can only manage two, a (pre-Mk4) Triumph Spitfire and a Peugeot 304 estate.

  2. Good morning, Daniel. You can achieve light trails easily enough on Digital with suitably long exposures, but in general, you are right, the best film photographs often do have a different character to digital ones. There are a number of reasons for this, partly the intrinsic differences in the technologies, partly the behaviour of different films, and partly the different way of working imposed by having to make every shot count with fewer technological aids. Part of the top analogue pros’ skill lay in using the appropriate films and lenses to achieve a certain look. That can be done easily in post production now but the true believers would argue it’s not quite the same. There are people who still shoot film for pleasure and even for work: the 35mmc.com blog is an introduction to that world, if you’re interested.

    1. Good Morning Michael and thanks for the information. I wasn’t even aware that you could have long exposures with Digital, so that’s something new I’ve learnt today. I’ll take a look at the website you mentioned.

  3. Eóin, thank you for a lovely Sunday morning surprise. Mrs Mark and I had a meal in The Black Sheep in 1975, so quite contemporaneous with the very evocative photograph. We drove to Amsterdam in our Saab 99 Combi, traveling from Belfast via Liverpool and Ostend. Our car was parked for five days canal side and directly outside a central hotel on Reguliersgracht, seemingly no parking restrictions. The past is indeed another country!

    1. Yes Eduardo. Waitsian would be a good description… (Early Tom though, not the later Beefheart-inflected era…)

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