Monday, August 25, 2014

Off the Cuff and on the clock: What makes a noir image noir?

(Clock in Reading Terminal Market. Photo by your humble blogkeeper):
Dietrich Kalteis once again uses one of my noir photographs to illustrate his Off the Cuff conversation with fellow novelist Martin J. Frankson. The photo above is the one he chose, so I thought I'd ask you, dear readers, what makes a noir image noir? Here's why I stuck this one in my noir photos folder on Facebook:
  1. It looks good.
  2. It's black and white.
  3. The suggestion of a ticking clock conveys a hint of anxiety.
  4. The cropping of the image enhances feelings of tension and suspense, in part by focusing on just the two numbers. What is going to happen in those five minutes, of which more than one and a half have already elapsed?
  5. The image of a clock face is highly familiar but, I hope, still packs a visual punch. That means it carries a rich set of associations.
Your job, readers, is to choose an image that strikes you as noirish and to think about why it does and post your thoughts here. The image can be from a photo, a book cover, a newspaper, online, anywhere. (The real-life suspense behind this photo was whether I would make it to work on time.  I did.)
*
Kalteis' chat with Frankson covers character and originality and includes the following:
"(W)hat makes a book original includes:

"Characters with lifestyles and attitudes that have been rarely portrayed before. The alcoholic, divorced middle-aged male detective with a drinking problem was once the most popular character in the genre. It’s still popular, but readers wanted fresh detectives with fresh lifestyles to reflect the times we live in. Along came young female detectives which was a breath of fresh air, but writers now need to look at society and see its diversity in the round. There are very few gay or non-white detectives in modern day crime literature I’ve noticed. I say ‘few’ as opposed to none at all. They do exist, but you have to go looking for them."
Read the entire conversation at Off the Cuff, http://dietrichkalteis.blogspot.ca/2014/08/off-cuff-4.html

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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10 Comments:

Blogger RT said...

Noir images -- jarring and enigmatic -- paradoxes of the simple and the complex -- without cliché / pictures worth a thousand bare-bones evocative words within a syntax that provokes and disturbs -- reminding us of our primal simplicity and our barbaric possibilities

August 25, 2014  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

Great image.

August 25, 2014  
Anonymous Mary Beth said...

The cover for The Guards by Ken Bruen hit a lot of noir notes for me. Streetlights glowing through the mist over a darkened bridge, shot from an angle as if the photographer were watching and waiting on the banks below.

August 25, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

RT: For a moment there I thought you were going to break into free verse. You (psycho)analyzed the question more deeply than I did, bit I quite like "without cliché ... within a syntax ."

August 25, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Mary Beth: Is this the cover of your edition of The Guards? Yep, I'd say diffuse lighting is a hallmark of noir photography, and perhaps by technical accident. In order to capture detail in a dark scene, the photographer must use a wide lens aperture, a long exposure time, or both. This overexposes light, particularly isolated sources such as street lamps, making it appear harsh at the center, with radiating centers of weaker, increasingly diffused light radiating outwards. This all makes for great contrast between dark and light--a noir thing, I'd say.

August 25, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Patti. You'll be able to see the clock at Noircon. If the convention hotel is the same one as two years ago, it's next door to Reading Terminal Market.

August 25, 2014  
Anonymous Mary Beth said...

Yes, that is the cover on my copy of The Guards. I like the tension in it.

August 25, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

For me any tension springs from the scene's mysterious aura: What lies beneath what looks like all that fog?

August 25, 2014  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Did you ever read the original Watchmen. The entire comic was a reflection on the image of the clock, time keeping, the passage of time, etc. The clock drawings in that book were really pretty extraordinary.

August 26, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Adrian. I have read (and liked) Watchmen, but I don't remember especially noticing the clock imagery. But I will be happy to go back and see how Moore and Gibbons stole my idea years before I had it.

A quick online search turned this image up, among others, along with one of a doomsday clock.

August 26, 2014  

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