Lives and works in New York City
(b. in Durham, NC)
Q: What themes does your work explore?
A: “Urban architecture; buildings being repurposed (shift from more industrial areas to those areas being used as residences, the flow of people to different places.) Light and color changes as day gives way to night – natural light growing darker and more blue while artifical lights gradually intensify and their colors interact with the fading daylight.”
Boundaries and Crossings
The novelist and essayist Mohsin Hamid writes, “We are all migrants through time.” That observation appeals to me because my work as a photographer involves depicting the passage across temporal boundaries. I am, for instance, especially fascinated by twilight, that transitional time when in cities and towns, daylight gives way to moonlight and the artificial light from street lamps and signs. I strive to capture images that heighten awareness of this daily migration in which we all participate.
Roaming city streets during this transitional hour, I am drawn to locales that also suggest transition and boundary-crossing. One example might be a neighborhood in which different uses compete; say, a downtown meat market that is in the process of turning into a high-fashion district. Another example is the post-industrial evolution of former warehouses and factories that are being repurposed and, in the grandeur of their vacancy, convey a sense of the sublime.
Even the presence of a single pedestrian can be a boundary-marker. Such figures themselves, like the shifting light, are in-transit. Also, one person, implying an absent populace, represents a kind of boundary between population and desolation.
The photographs I take represent the poised reality of a crossing in another way as well. In a temporarily unpopulated urban space, one’s first impression is that nothing is happening. However, tell-tale signs of human presence, a lighted window or a ladder in an otherwise empty store, can create the sense that a story is about to start. I try to capture an urban scene poised between nothing-is-happening and something-is-about-to-begin.
Finally, other more literal types of boundaries and crossings attract me as well. One of these is the wall of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in the Nolita neighborhood of Manhattan. This wall, more than a simple physical barrier, is visibly a temporal migrant itself and also a backdrop for passersby on their own journeys through time.
- Lynn Saville was born in Durham, North Carolina and received her BA from Duke University and MFA from the Pratt Institute.
- She specializes in photographing cities and rural settings at twilight and dawn, or as she describes it, “the boundary times between night and day.”
- Her work has been widely exhibited in the US and abroad, including at The Photographers’ Gallery, London; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina; Tucson Museum of Art; and Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University.
- Her work can be found in numerous major public collections including National Portrait Gallery, London; International Center of Photography, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others.
- Her photographs have been published in four monographs: Acquainted With the Night (Rizzoli, 1997); Night/Shift, with an introduction by Arthur C. Danto (Random House/Monacelli, 2009); Dark City, with an introduction by award winning critic Geoff Dyer (Damiani, Bologna, 2015) and Lost: New York (Kris Graves Projects, New York, 2018).
- Saville’s work has won many awards, including fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts; New York State Council for the Arts; and most recently, the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Cityscapes.
- Currently her 3-year solo public art show is on view in Grand Central Terminal. 8 large light boxes show “Grand Central Revealed” a project commissioned by New York City’s MTA: ArtsDesign.
- She lives with her husband, the poet Philip Fried.
PRESS + MEDIA
The Secret Life of Infrastructure: Lynn Saville’s ‘Dark City’
The Archeology of Overnight
[The New Yorker]
Finding the Perfect Time of Day to Photograph America’s Changing Cities
Eloquent Empty Spaces
[New York Times]