Flash! Night-Time Adventures With The Speed Graphic

An exhibition and sale of photographs at Artisan gallery London

Feb 3rd – March 3rd 2012

Simon Davey is a photographer whose passion is shooting black and white film with vintage cameras.

After discovering he had an interest in American press photographs taken at night during the 1930’s – 1950’s, Simon based his latest project on this unique style of photography.

To bring this genre back to life in the modern world he uses the early press photographers preferred choice of camera, the large format ‘Speed Graphic’.

Being intrigued by the behaviour of the club goers, drunkards, loners and lovers who come out after dark, he photographs only at night or in the early hours of the morning. Hanging around street corners he waits until something magical happens in the wire viewfinder of the camera. To provide the necessary lighting a magnesium flashbulb is attached to the camera and ‘fired’ the instant the shutter is released. Readily available in the 1940’s & 1950’s, flashbulbs provide an extremely powerful source of light, capturing everything in brilliant detail. Simon has found that using flashbulbs from this era is the only way he can create the stylised lighting required for his photographs.

Before taking each photograph a new flashbulb and wooden darkslide containing a 5 x 4 inch negative need to be inserted into the camera. Every shot must count, tending to make the framing of each photograph look composed yet spontaneous. Simon finds that using such a cumbersome and obtrusive camera forces him to photograph in a quicker, more deliberate way.

Until they were bathed in the intense light of the flashbulb, the majority of people in these photographs did not know they were being photographed. In this way the expressions, actions and movements of the subjects were not compromised in any way, adding a sense of realism to the images.

The final images are printed by hand in the darkroom. Most of them are printed on to vintage photographic paper, which adds to the depth, beauty and quality of the final photograph.


  • Tel: 0208 451-6315
  • Email: email@artisan80.com
  • Nearest tube station, Willesden Green on the Jubilee line.