Peter Ydeen's Easton Nights
"I work with the tenet of Urban Landscape Photography that finds 'beauty in the mundane', but change it to finding the 'beauty in what we think is mundane'. If you look closely nothing is mundane."
We spoke to urban landscape photographer Peter Ydeen about his current series Easton Nights, his general artistic practice and influences. His work Easton Nights explores the urban landscape at night. The isolation of night and lack of people as subjects brings on a self reflective observation into each image. The subjective view of an audience creates discourse. Inspired by George Tice and reminiscent of work by Gregory Crewdson, Ydeen creates comprehensive, reflective photographic work in Easton, Pennsylvania, New York and other international locations.
Abstract: Peter Ydeen is primarily an Urban Landscape photographer living in Easton, Pennsylvania. the main focus of his work,“Easton Nights”, began late in 2015 as an exercise in night photography, inspired by the poetic photographs of George Tice and at the invitation to participate in a night photography exhibition. It was not hard to love the simplicity of the night, where the remnants people create and leave behind, come together as a reflective documentary of us all. There are no people, but it is all about people. These are our stages, constructed and arranged by us in the manner we prefer. The night isolates, presenting us with objects and vignettes with specified lighting. We illuminate what is important to us, a door, our car, our streets and especially, important words. as if were adding an exclamation point at the end of a sentence; with the trail of objects leading into shadow contributing as interesting adjectives and an occasional participle. Here in Easton, an almost 300 year history as a centre of for the working man, is translated at night into cascading layers mirroring our daily life. All of the photos are 2017 except Number 10.
PW: Tell us more about you and your artwork.
PY: First and foremost, I am an art lover. I love to see. Colour, line, shape, patterns, emotion, interactions, form; all of these elements of visual art are a part of my daily life. I trained as a painter and sculptor with a number of wonderful people, such as Ray Kass, Phillip Pearlstien, and Alan D’Arcangleo, who opened my eyes and removed the blinders that all of us are fitted with as we grow up. After my formal art training I was lucky enough to have been financially unsuccessful with the painting, which opened up my life to making a living in a variety of creative fields. Initially I worked for architects, stage designers, photographers, illustration, and a number of other hands-on jobs. I then met the woman of my dreams, we married and together opened a gallery selling antique Chinese and African sculpture, which helped to draw my eye out of my own work and taught me to appreciate the many wonderful unknown masters in those fields. I have been lucky to handle a large gamut of artwork every day of my adult life, being educated by both the creators of the art and fellow art lovers in so many disciplines. In the last several years, I have concentrated on photography, using the years of education and interactions to enjoy seeing the wonderful environment we have created and live in.
PW: How did you plan for this project? What was your creative process?
PY: Any thing I plan, surely fucks up. I fell into the night photography at an invitation to a night photography show. I looked at photographs of the great poet, George Tice, for inspiration. As always, the best things evolved on there own. In my creative process, I am subservient to the image. I am not terribly technical, and so do my major settings on the camera before I shoot, then only make minor adjustments in the field. I work fast, taking many shots, then return to see what is given to me. I feel I only can take partial credit for the images, because as they unfold on the monitor, certain ones come alive by themselves. It is that lyrical animation which has proven to be addictive. I try and process as little as possible, but it varies by image. In the end, there is a lot of interaction between the image and myself. Lastly, social media is important as peoples’ interactions and comments often produce my titles, which I consider an important aspect of the final image. In the end, every image is a conversation with the viewer, and input is critical.
PW: What work inspires or has inspired you?
PY: I have already partially answered this. I do not come from a photography background, and so my major influences are painters. Charles Burchfield, who painted eccentric and wonderful animated houses, is always on my mind with this series. The way he tried to install energy into the inanimate world is closely akin to my own aspirations. George Tice, who lives only an hour from me, was major photographic inspiration. A lot of the same urban landscape in his photography still exists and is the same period architecture in my photos. From a photography standpoint though, my contemporaries are my major influence, as I look at their photos every day. Patrick Joust, an amazing night and portrait photographer, who is on the other side of Pennsylvania, Dave Binyon and his personable eye, Helmut Kluges’ fantastic street photography, and many others always inspire me. Lastly I have a good deal of indirect influence by people outside of photography, such as my wife, who has a unique and sophisticated eye, Marc Leo Felix, who taught me to see African Art, and then many of the collectors and dealers in the Chinese art field. There are so many disparate influences which go into my vision, and I have been very lucky for the experience.
PW: Are there any artistic movements you enjoy in particular and why?
PY: I am not a person who stays in touch with the current trends. I still daily think about early Impressionism as it has a lot of connection to photography. They were the first to study additive light mixture, which is what we use in digital photography, which in turn needs to be converted to subtractive colour mixture with inks and printing. Early American Modern Art is a daily visitor to my approach to photography. My awareness of photography movements stops with Urban Landscape Photography, as established by photographers such as Tice and Eggleston, though more towards the poetic nature of Tice’s photos. I look at current photography constantly, but I couldn’t tell you the name of a particular movement. It doesn’t register with me that way, but more as individual images.
PW: Do you have any opinions or ideals underlying your art?
PY: I work with the tenet of Urban Landscape Photography that finds “beauty in the mundane”, but change it to finding the “beauty in what we think is mundane”. If you look closely nothing is mundane.
PW: Easton Nights is a very visually evocative series. You’ve dubbed this work a ‘reflective documentary of us all’ - affect of these still, night images with a lone source of illumination really highlight the mood you’re trying to relate here. What is your personal relationship with Easton and how long have you been documenting it’s night scenes?
PY: Easton Nights began in late October of 2015. It was not planned and it will end when it no longer captivates me. The use of the word evocative is interesting. We originally moved to Easton as an interim home, in order to pair down our belongings, later planning to move to New York City. My initial impressions of Easton was as a depressed, forgotten and possibly even a dying city, formally the home to a number of industries such as Bethlehem Steel, Dixie, Crayola and many others which either went bankrupt or left. Initially, I felt the photographs reflected that despondent aura. However, It didn’t take long for that “evocative” nature of Easton to reveal itself. Easton and the Lehigh Valley have a long history by American standards and because of this there is a fantastic complexity of layers which all add to the animation. The lives of so many generations unfold in the different styles and adaptations, which literally have been growing for hundreds of years. My relationship now is one of fascination.
PW: Any words for aspiring photographers?
PY: I also consider myself an aspiring photographer, and my advice is to keep aspiring. Art is a conversation, and you need the interaction; but the final decisions, as to what you aspire to, is yours only. It is always surprising where support comes from and often those closest to you have no clue of what you are doing. Listen, store what is said in the back of your brain, then do what responds to you.
PW: Is there anything you’re currently working on?
PY: I am currently putting together some subsets of the Easton Nights series to publish. I am putting together another video collaboration, this time with Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė, a Lithuanian singer and kanklės player. I will be traveling soon and usually do a mini series on each trip. Lastly I am constantly trying to put together a book on the first year of Easton Nights, the volume of images and difficulties of printing have kept this slow.
PW: Are there any shows exhibiting your work in the near future?
PY: There will be a show for the series "Easton Nights" opening on May 19th at the Brick and Mortar Gallery in Easton, Pennsylvania. A number of works will also be included in The Atlantic Contemporary Art Fair, which will be held in The Grand, Lancashire. March 27, 28 and 29 2018 and marks the 10th anniversary of Atlantic Contemporary.