On my neighbor’s lawn sits a menagerie of blow up Christmas paraphernalia that adorns the grassy yard. An oversized Santa rides a too small sleigh led by a scattering of reindeer softly swaying in a rhythm that remains steady throughout the night. By morning, the soft whirl of the air compressor is turned off, leaving a Santa puddle of red and white, until once again the night falls and Santa sways.
Oh the Christmas season, full of festive color and celebration, but that is not what Finnish photographer Markus Henttonen saw when he made a visit to Los Angeles. Seeing the houses lined with lights, he was struck, not by the dazzling and the twinkling, but of the eerie shadows, the ominous darkness and the stillness where not a creature was stirring…
And thus Henttonen’s series, Silent Night, was born. Henttonen and his wife drove the streets of Los Angeles in the weeks before Christmas looking for houses to photograph. Hennttonen wasn’t looking for the biggest or brightest lights like most of us do when enjoying the decorated streets, but looking for houses with an overall eerie feeling created from the lights and the shadows they caused, in empty, quiet neighborhoods.
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Using a medium-format digital camera and long exposures to get the look he wanted, Henttonen says he ultimately didn’t understand how Americans celebrated Christmas. The holiday spirit portrayed in this series is dark and ominous, reminiscent more of A Nightmare Before Christmas than one of Christmas cheer. The discord of the colorful bright lights and the silent, empty houses with drawn curtains gives this series an interesting perspective on Christmas indeed.
To see more of Markus Henttonen’s work, check out his website here.