In 2003 I went to see Snow, a small exhibition of the then most recent work of Swiss photographer Thomas Flechtner at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London. His images of the Swiss city of La Chaux de Fonds (the home of architect Le Corbusier and considered the coldest part of Switzerland) at night and enveloped in snow, have remained some of my favourite photographs. I’ve always been fascinated by the transformative powers snow has on the urban landscape. Its ability to prettify everything: building sites, roadworks, your wheelie bin. All things that could be considered ugly, now covered. Beautiful.
Flechtner captures these scenes at night. Free of humans, but not denying their presence. Lights remain on in blocks of flats or petrol stations. The long exposures give a kind of false daytime quality, though I imagine the exposure times to be shorter than usual as the streetlights, mingled with moonlight, are reflected with such brilliance by the all-surrounding white. With that delay he also manages to bring incredible pink, purple and green hues, so it’s never really white. I’m just in love with the cinematic starkness of it all, the uneasy sense of isolation and solitude. The city as we never see it. Empty, quiet, calm. Snow is one of the few things that can make a city stop.
Much of what I’ve said for Snow can also be said of another book in my collection; the catalogue of an exhibition around that same time, Nadav Kander’s Night. Cities and, rather amazingly, beaches captured at their quietest nocturnal moments. I think both artists’ nightscapes have been brought to mind recently by the opening title sequence of The Bridge, the cinematography is particularly reminiscent of Kander’s work.
To this day, I keep them comically wrapped up together to almost pass-the-parcel levels for protection – they’re both white, of course. Occasionally I’ll take them out for a peek, something about them never seems to date. These are two publications I definitely feel lucky to own.
Images copyright Thomas Flechtner & Nadav Kander