Listen—with headphones, in the dark—to Pete Mauney at work on his incredible firefly photographs on these two episodes of Spinning on Air.
Morning people get all the props, but this Artist Spotlight is dedicated to the night owls among us. Daylight is dwindling as we work our way toward winter solstice. Why not use this opportunity to delight in the dark? Our 20x200 take on the topic is more magic and meditation than things-that-go-bump, and we’ve got PM-going photographer Pete Mauney to thank.
A self-described night person who’s been photographing in the dark since the very beginning of his career, Mauney is an ace observer with a contemplative creative edge and a gift for waiting for the right shot. When he’s behind the camera, he relishes his solitude and an abundance of time to wander. Patience is a virtue, and one that’s rewarded this artist with some seriously striking work. This is especially clear in his practice of documenting nature’s summer evening sparklers—fireflies. This particular subject was obviously perfectly in tune with his night person proclivities, but he also chose it in part because of the challenge involved in creating these images (gotta love that). It’s only in the past several years that technology has equipped him with new tools for translating the beauty of dark scenes, beyond the limitations of film.
For over a quarter of a century, Mauney has been based in New York’s Hudson Valley. It’s just far enough outside the city upstate to get a solid serving of quiet, small-town charm and countryside scenery—also, a great spot to exercise his firefly-seeking instincts. In search of a cool cluster, the artist will often venture out with three camera rigs on three different tripods. Take a look at his two 20x200 editions, or pore over his firefly oeuvre on his website. To make these amazing images, he layers multiple exposures, capturing firefly activity over a period of time and revealing the salient beauty of the complex systems these lighting bugs live by. The resulting photographs are startling, stunning, and illuminating (literally and figuratively).
David Garland of WNYC honed in on Mauney and his work on the podcast Spinning on Air. In the two-episode feature, the host and artist rendezvous at a local farm upstate for a firefly-photographing session, capturing an incredible cluster of the insects. Speaking of upstate NY, catch Mauney’s work at Kleinert/James Center for the Arts in Woodstock in late summer/early fall of 2019. The show will cover several different projects, including his firefly and airport images. Beyond his night crawling tendencies, Mauney has also amassed an extensive collection of other people’s old negatives. He’s showing a large subset of the collection called White Men Congratulating Themselves (which depicts exactly that) at SUNY Purchase's Maass Gallery starting October 18th. Stop by if you’re in the area!
With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200