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The images that appear in Out of the Darkness, were taken before and during the first lockdown in 2020. David Nissen explores the feelings and impressions you might experience while travelling. Due to the current, global situation, the photo book stands as a visual reflection on loneliness and the lack of freedom when travelling.  

LFI: Please explain the idea behind this book. When did you start the project and where was it shot?
David Nissen: I started shooting these photos before covid, when we were all free to travel. I took a lot of the pictures in USA and in Asia. During the first lockdown, I worked on the layout and I went back to all my film negatives to scan the ones I wanted to share in this book. My starting point for this effort was the title of the book: Out of the Darkness. I wanted to find powerful locations, architecture, light and deep blacks with empty spaces, and with a minimum of people – where the light came from the darkness. And I realized that all these photos were taken in big cities, where we can feel lonely, and where there was loneliness in all the people I saw.

You used your M10 for this project, to give the images stark contrasts and a low grain feel...
Nissen: Yes, mostly the M10; but also the M6 with TriX film and red filter to enhance contrast – an old trick when working with black and white film.
I like the low grain feel of the M10 compared to some pictures taken with the M6 and film…I really like to mix these techniques. So when I’m in a shoot mode, I only use one body, mainly the M10, with 3 summilux lenses: the 1.4/35, 1.4/50 and 1.4/75.

Who influenced the way your way of seeing developed?
Well a lot of people influenced me and still do. Among the many photographers whose work I like are Saul Leiter, Gregory Crewdson, Philipp Lorca di Corcia, Bill Henson, Bruce Davidson and Todd Hido: I like the way they approach colours, the framing, and how they tell a story in one frame. For a few years now, I’ve been deeply in love with the high contrasts and wildness of Japanese photographers from the seventies and eighties, such as Hosoe, Fukase, Ueda, Moriyama; I also love Petersen, Sobol, Koudelka.

There are references to film and also painting in your work. What is your connection between these mediums?
Yes, I have a background in film-making, so I have to say that some cinematographers like Gordon Willis, Conrad Hall, Sven Nikvist – just to mention a few – were very important to me. I also have to mention Darius Khondji, another director of photography, because I learned a lot from him when I was working at his side. He was the one who pushed me to become a director of photography when he saw my early work. Firstly, I studied at an art school where I learned to draw and to sculpt; but I have to say that I wasn’t very good. I wanted to work as a cabinetmaker, but after some years trying I stopped and took a photography class. During that period, I saw a lot of painters and exhibitions, so painting is still in my blood. Well, for me, photography and cinematography are two passions that merge and feed off one another: writing a story with light; a return to the roots of photography!

What might the next project you have in mind be? Would it be in black and white or in colour?
The next project I would like to do is a feature film; like a road trip mixing ciné images with photo images – mixing the two techniques. I’m also, prepping another book for 2021, which I hope will be all black and white photos; but it's a bit too soon to talk about it as my last book just came out last week (laughs).

David Nissen: Out of the Darkness
300-copy edition, signed and numbered, with 13x18 baryta quality silver print, October 2020

self published
© David Nissen

David Nissen

Born in Valenciennes, France, in 1969, Nissen studied Photography and Drawing at the École des Beaux Arts. He works as a Director of Photography on feature films and in advertising. For Nissen, cinematography and photography are two passions that merge and feed off one another, writing a story with light, a return to the roots of photography. His first book, Deep Night, was published in 2017. His following book, Shapes of Light, was published in April 2019, and is third publication, Out of the Darkness, came out in October 2020.

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