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Modernist Palm Springs Homes Photographed in the Moonlight

Photography By
Designed by Palmer and Kirsel in 1959 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Designed by Palmer and Kirsel in 1959 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)

 

At first glance, the home above may seem awash in sunlight. Look closer, though, and it’s actually been photographed in the dead of night, lit only by the moon.

During the zenith of the modernist wave, Palm Springs became a haven for hedonists escaping the hubbub of Hollywood. The flood of pleasure seekers brought with it the architectural style familiar to many up and down the West Coast. Today, Palm Springs still has a reputation for indulgence and modernism. Honoring both, Australian photographer Tom Blachford photographed the iconic homes in the city’s moonlight.

For those unfamiliar with the fine art of photography, taking a well-exposed photo at night is difficult for the obvious reason that there is no natural light (i.e. sunlight). By photographing the homes after dark, Blachford captures a more “polished” version of them—the moonlight and shadows washing away imperfections and the scars of time, freezing these homes in time 50 years ago.

Designed by Hal Levitt in 1961; with a 1957 Ford Thunderbird in the driveway (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Designed by Hal Levitt in 1961; with a 1957 Ford Thunderbird in the driveway (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)

 

Inspired by the works of documentary and lifestyle photographers Slim Aarons and Julius Shulman, Blachford adds a touch of mystery to the idyllic Palm Springs setting. His cinematic style invites the viewer into the image, bestowing the voyeuristic feel of a trespasser. “I have always wanted to create tension in the scenes as if they were still frames from a movie where the action is about [to] start or has just ended—heavy silence and anticipation of what is coming next,” the photographer told Wallpaper.

Blachford also had seemingly unfettered access to some of the most coveted homes in the Palm Springs community. These include the Kaufmann Desert House, Edris House, Frey House II, Frank Sinatra Twin Palms House, and numerous of other historic homes in the valley. See more of his work below.

Ship of the Desert, designed by Wilson and Webster in 1936 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Ship of the Desert, designed by Wilson and Webster in 1936 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Frey House II, designed by Albert Frey in 1963 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Frey House II, designed by Albert Frey in 1963 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Frank Sinatra's Twin Palms Estate, desgined by E. Stewart Williams in 1947 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate, designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1947 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Designed by an unkown architect in 1967 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Designed by an unknown architect in 1967 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Edris House, designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1954 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Edris House, designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1954 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Kaufmann Desert House, designed by Richard Neutra in 1946 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Kaufmann Desert House, designed by Richard Neutra in 1946 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Kaufmann Desert House, designed by Richard Neutra in 1946 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Kaufmann Desert House, designed by Richard Neutra in 1946 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Kaufmann Desert House, designed by Richard Neutra in 1946 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Kaufmann Desert House, designed by Richard Neutra in 1946 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Designed by Donald Wexler in 1962; with a 1963 Studebaker Avanti in the driveway. (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Designed by Donald Wexler in 1962; with a 1963 Studebaker Avanti in the driveway. (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Edris House, designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1954 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)
Edris House, designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1954 (Midnight Modern by Tom Blachford, published by powerHouse Books)

 

 

Created over three years, Blachford’s haunting Palm Springs photographs are now available in a book published by powerHouse Books. Midnight Modern: Palm Springs Under the Full Moon costs $65 and is available for purchase here.

RealClearLife Staff