Teri Havens Statement

Artist Statement
Last Light

There is solace in the night. I find it comforting when the sun finally slips away, taking with it the expectations and disappointments of the day. Darkness shrouds the superfluous, concealing the flaws of the world - or at least muting them temporarily. Things that have only a supporting role in daylight take center stage under the stark beam of a streetlight or the silken glow of a full moon. I’m attracted to old structures that stand detached and self-sufficient: a church, rigidly upright on an abandoned plain refusing to kneel to the earth’s inevitable reclamation; a liquor store beckoning like a cinderblock Shangri –La; an aging trailer home, once a symbol of life untethered, now settled into permanent stasis, enduring as a monument to the fortitude of the life within.

And then there are the bars.

I’ve always had a thing for bars. The more marginal the better. I’m mostly drawn to outliers - raw, dilapidated joints that evoke an earlier, grittier era. Humble, solitary structures cloaked in loneliness and isolation, yet miraculously - as if blessed by some divine patron- still open. An authentic down-to-its-rotting-bones refuge where a hard-edged world is numbed and softened by alcohol and dim lighting.

Defiant vestiges of the past, the bar always seems the last to go. After the grocery store, the lumberyard and the barbershop surrendered to the future and shut their doors for the final time, the bar stayed on. Slumped alone on the edge of a discarded town, its neon spills out onto the asphalt and burns through the night.

Inside, the beer is cold, and the jukebox is stocked with George Jones and dirges from an irretrievable past.

Process Statement
These images were captured using either moonlight or ambient streetlight. Many of the exposures are very long – some up to twenty minutes. Often it is so dark that there are things in the photograph that I don’t see until the image is processed.

Sometimes I spend several nights photographing the same scene until I get a shot that I am satisfied with. If the bar is busy I wait until closing time when there is only a single truck in front of the bar– usually belonging to the bartender or owner.

For years I have been a dedicated film photographer, but for this series I conceded to digital technology because it allows me to more easily clean up images, take out glare and reflections, and smooth out anomalies. It also makes it possible to accommodate the full spectrum of tones in night photography. If a scene has a wider range of values than the camera can capture in a single exposure I can create composites: I’ll take one exposure of the main part of the subject - the building or surrounding landscape - and merge it with a shorter exposure of the moon or other bright elements in the scene to create the final image.

The finished platinum/palladium print is a hybrid of modern digital technology and 19th century printmaking techniques. Although I strive for all of the elements of fine art printmaking, for me, photography is primarily a means of exploring and documenting fragments of a vanishing America.

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