Exhibition: Nighthawks – Joy Mei En Lai

Exhibition: Nighthawks – Joy Mei En Lai

Nighthawks showcases a photographic series taken between 2020 – 2024, mainly around Lai’s inner-city neighbourhood. Each image captures a seemingly ordinary location and a quiet moment, vibrant in the darkness with crisp detail. A suite of motifs punctuates the series, from breezeblocks to bridges, shipping containers to abandoned cars.

Lai’s works are composed with the eye of a painter and executed with the technical mastery of a professional photographer. Every Nighthawks image thrums with possibility: something profound happened seconds ago or is on the cusp of occurring. Like Lai, we are both witnesses and prospective participants.

Australian photo-media artist, Anne Zahalka writes: Nighthawks takes us on a voyeuristic flight through the alleyways and streets of the city. Hovering behind the photographer, we see what she sees. Joy Lai captures her street scenes of the urban, ordinary and strange, with a keen and curious eye. She is hawk-eyed!Disorder Gallery website.

Disorder Gallery. Sydney until 29 June 2024

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This article was written by

David Tatnall is an Australian fine art photographer & editor of View Camera Australia.

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:20 am

    This exhibition of highly saturated colour images of the inner city of Sydney at night looks great. The use of models in some of the urbanscapes works very well

    Nighthawks– doesn’t that refer back to a well known Edward Hopper painting?

    A question re this statement: ‘Lai’s works are composed with the eye of a painter and executed with the technical mastery of a professional photographer.’

    Why do those who practice photographic /art criticism in Australia still need to talk about colour photography in terms of the ‘eye of the painter’ instead of the eye of the large format analogue photographer? The above statement reduces photography to a craft technique. Filmic colour photography has its own aesthetic tradition – eg., the work of Joel Sternfeld or Joel Meyerowitz — which digital technology is trying to simulate.

    We could even say that the colour of Lai’s film photography in the Nighthawks project references the highly saturated colour of digital photography that we see on our screens.

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