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Lynn Saville

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Lynn Saville
(1950 - )

Lynn Saville, a native of North Carolina who now lives in New York City, has been making photographs at night for many years. (1) She works with a Leica 35mm rangefinder camera and medium-format cameras with tripods to steady them for the long exposures required to fix images on photographic film in low light situations. She eschews flash photography, relying instead on ambient light from illuminated signs, automobile headlights, street lights, and light escaping from building interiors. Saville has produced both color and black and white prints that transport us vicariously into places where we might not feel safe to go at night, in person, alone. The brave and intrepid photographer ventures down alleyways, up staircases, and onto rooftops to frame her views of city, suburban, and rural night scenes. She makes her photographic prints herself, fixing images indelibly on photographic paper. Her compositions include velvety shadows reminiscent of eighteenth-century mezzotints, stark contrasts of total darkness surrounding bare light bulbs, and the hazy glow of streetlamps in fog or snow. Her photos have been shown in the U.S. and abroad, in galleries and museums, in group and solo shows. They hang in public and private collections including George Eastman House, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California Museum of Art, Museum of the City of Paris, and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. The MMFA owns two of her images of New York City’s most recognizable landmarks: The Flatiron Building and the Brooklyn Bridge.

(1) For the artist and her work, see "Acquainted with the Night: Photographs by Lynn Saville, Poetry Selected by Philip Fried," Introduction by Joseph Rosa, and Foreword by Bill Moyers (New York: Rizzoli, 1997); and "Lynn Saville, Night Shift: Photographs" (New York: Monacelli Press, 2009). Brooklyn Bridge is illustrated in "Acquainted with the Night," p. 29. According to a 2008 biographical statement in the MMFA artist file, Saville’s parents were professors at Duke University. She grew up in North Carolina and summered in Vermont, acknowledging that her “sense of beauty was first awakened in the south….” Her “earliest memories of the pleasures of night were looking out at the back yard through the screen porch…lighted by the single light from the house.” She studied at Duke and earned an MFA in photography from Pratt Institute in 1976. Her Night Shift exhibition originated at the Mint Museum in Charlotte and travelled to the Pensacola Museum of Art, Hiram College in Ohio, and the MMFA.

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