Everything is illuminated: Pete Mauney's new firefly fantasy


My backyard, Tivoli, NY 7/10/14 by Pete Mauney

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Fireflies spell summer, flickering enchantingly in the warm, endless evenings that top off the day this time of year. They’re known for filling even the most cynical adults (see: our entire team post-subway signal malfunction) with a sense of wonder, for reminding us of the ephemeral beauty the season brings, to stay tuned to nature’s innumerable elaborations. So we’re right on cue to close out the last unofficial weeks of summer with a new limited-edition selection from Pete Mauney’s magical firefly photos. This time, the photographer snapped the beetles’ bewitching bioluminescence in his own backyard. Go ahead and invite yourself over: My backyard, Tivoli, NY 7/10/14.

Also in Mauney’s own backyard (figuratively speaking): his incredible solo show. The artist’s work is on display through September 8th at the Byrdcliffe Guild’s Kleinert/James exhibition space in Woodstock, NY, where he intends to find himself (literally speaking—although you never know) for the show’s remaining Saturdays. This means there’s a good chance you’ll spot his bearded visage if you stop by. You may even seize the opportunity to ask him a question or two. For our fellow NYC-ers, this also makes an excellent excuse to partake of an important summer mainstay—escaping upstate for a woodsy weekend rollick. Two birds, one two-hour road trip!

While many photographers chase the light, Mauney’s made darkness his muse. A self-described “night person”, he relishes solitude, meandering drives on rural roads, losing his sense of time. He’s been courting the night from behind a camera going on thirty years, and the wealth of supernaturally spectacular images resulting is a testament to the greatness of this love affair. Being based in the Hudson Valley gives him an upper hand here: there’s no shortage of quiet back country in which to find the phosphorescent phenomena he captures in photos like My backyard, Tivoli, NY 7/10/14. To trap the transient glow in magnificent multitudes, Mauney seeks out concentrated firefly clusters and uses a long-exposure technique he’s mastered over many years. He considers himself lucky to be able to convey some of the chaotic, sublime spirit of the moment in photographic form, but we’d argue the rest of us are the lucky ones.

We’ve written a lot about Mauney’s work, it's casual metaphysicality, it’s effortless complexity. There’s power in seeing the night in a new light, in re-opening your eyes to the hidden world around you. My backyard, Tivoli, NY 7/10/14 and Mauney’s other firefly editions vibrate with bright streaks of whizzing green light, surreal, stunning, yet strangely familiar. While it serves several purposes, the firefly’s scintillation is in part a curious mating dance, an enigmatic flirtation of flashes. Seems we’re drawn to Mauney’s images like companionless fireflies to their compatible partner, the exact experience inexplicable.

The firefly population may be dwindling, so it’s possible these incandescent creatures could fade away, fleeting as our vacation days. We hope not, but are all the more thankful for Mauney’s self-elected role as steward of their mysterious beauty and brilliance. All we can say is: let there be lighting bugs!

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