The Dark Passion by Diane Keaton

The Dark Passion by Diane Keaton

Dead of Night is a dark book. As dark as the night that surrounds it and the stories it contains. The clarity it exudes comes solely from its own imagery; a series of disturbing photographs of wrecked cars, their shattered bodies illuminating the scene with silvery reflections. As if it were a horror or suspense film, after the brake screech the reader will think they hear a sharp and final thump while the car’s headlights, still on, warn of a fatality.

The photographs were taken by Robert H. Boltz (1925-2006), an unknown photographer who worked as a forensic investigator in West Bend, a small town in Wisconsin, USA. There he amassed a huge collection of images of traffic accidents that over time would fall into the hands of Diane Keaton. “I was seven years old when I spent my first night at Grandma Keaton’s house in Highland Park, California,” the Oscar winner writes in the photo book. “I went to sleep in the spare room, freed from my little brother Randy, with whom I shared a bunk bed at home. In the middle of the night I was woken up by a very loud noise. Randy and I ran to the porch. A car crashed into a telephone pole. My grandmother asked me to come into the house immediately! When I got up the next morning, the car was gone.”

The double-page spread image of a burning house leads the reader down a path of nightmare and terrifying beauty, where images of the fire are interspersed with those of wrecked cars. Each photograph corresponds to a different accident, a moment of terror in the stillness of the night, in which the human figure is absent, adding to the suspense. “The book provokes different emotions in readers,” warns Nick Reid, the photographer Keaton went to after acquiring the stack of photos. “Some are repelled and find it macabre, while others are captivated by its unique sense of beauty.” Reid has previously worked with the actress, who is responsible for photographing the products of K by Keaton (the home goods brand she designed herself). was.

An avid collector, Annie Hall’s protagonist has a particular fondness for black and white images. A passion he has been giving free rein to for years, collecting odd film stills – some featuring crab-handed aliens – as well as damaged and discarded negatives. (This fascination with the unpredictable is illustrated by the book Saved: My Picture World (Rizzoli), a visual autobiography that reveals his creative obsession with oddities and images that are as odd as they are uncanny, as well as his own forays into the practice of photography.) In Stuff Taste and humor is inimitable to Keaton, always in his own league.

Photo by Robert H. Boltz from the book Photo by Robert H. Boltz from the book “Dead of Night”. Published by Twin Palms Publishers. Robert H. Boltz

Boltz’s work exceeded 2,000 negatives of 9 x 12 cm. “When I saw it, I knew it was something unique. They captivated me,” assures the photographer. Many of the images were accompanied by brief descriptions. During years of painstaking and painstaking editing, the actress and Reid learned that the author of the photos also worked for an insurance company. “He was a good photographer,” notes Reid. “I worked with a large format camera and a tripod. I walked through the scene looking for different lighting angles to create a studio environment using flash; a truly magical atmosphere.” The photographs were taken between the 1950s and early 1980s throughout the photographer’s career. Within the set were images taken in daylight. Others showed people searching the scene, including police officers, and various items. However, both Keaton and Reid chose to emphasize only the image of the wrecked vehicles, emphasizing their sculptural qualities. In doing so, they not only avoided the legal problems that involved the victims, but they also avoided falling into the macabre. They decided to remove all human elements through retouching.

Each accident takes one page and faces another in all black. Even the edges of the paper are black. “Initially we tried to print the book on black paper with silver ink, but the result didn’t have the depth we wanted, so we ended up printing on white paper and tinting everything black as needed,” explains Reid.

“Boltz’s nocturnal images contain a richness akin to 1930s film noir,” writes Keaton. “I like to think that maybe he was a fan of movies like Scarface starring Paul Muni and The Public Enemy starring James Cagney. Each car is illuminated with a nightmarish quality of light and dark. Its framing corresponds to the technique of horror and suspense films, in which the shadows offer rich details of the environment. The photographs remind me of genres in which light and shadow are synonymous with good and evil. This book is a hymn to unsolved mysteries discovered in the middle of the night.”

‘Dead Night’. Robert. H Boltz. Edited by Diane Keaton and Nick Reid. Twin Palms Publishers, 2021. 72 pages. 64 euros.

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