L Y N N     S A V I L L E
P    H    O    T    O    G    R    A    P    H    Y




One of the newest collections of visual materials in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library is that of Lynn Saville, an urban night landscape photographer. A native of North Carolina and alumna of Duke, Saville now lives and works in New York City.

Saville did not come to her area of expertise by accident. When she was a child, her father and brother, both avid amateur photographers, introduced her to the camera. She explored her talents as an undergraduate at Duke, and cites Professor Hendrik van Dijk, formerly of the Department of Art and Art History, as influential to her career. While studying at the Pratt Institute, she experimented with different photographic styles and found that her nocturnal shots simply turned out better. At night she could better control the play of light and, in her words, uncover “the abstract formality of the universe.

Saville likens her work to turning the day inside out and exposing its infrastructure, to revealing the unexpected in what is otherwise familiar. As to her technique, she does not construct scenes, but prefers to find them. She may pass a setting many times before a slight change inspires her to take its picture. “Like finding a streetlight burnt-out, she explains.

For Saville, every city has it own life story, a story hidden beneath its daily hustle and bustle. She endeavors to capture this implicit narrative when the city is at its purest, stripped of people and other visual “noise.” This passion draws her out of her home at the very hour others secure themselves safely behind locked doors. In search of her next shot, she often flirts with danger, venturing into places that others might prefer to avoid. One critic, impressed by Saville’s apparent familiarity with deserted nighttime streets and back alleys, commented that she “knew Brooklyn like a thief.

Saville's book, Acquainted with the Night, bears witness to her photographic artistry. It is replete with images that whisper secrets, exaggerate dreamscapes, and manipulate pleasure. Saville admits to the eerie loneliness and sense of fear in her photographs. Verbalizing the paradoxes her photographs seem to capture, she suggests that darkness is comforting and threatening, soft and ominous.

In his introduction to Acquainted with the Night, curator Joseph Rosa addresses the notions of sublime and negative pleasure in Saville’s photographs. “In the experiential realm, fear of physical danger is traditionally associated with the night; however, the distancing of the camera lens in these images subverts the threat of danger and transforms fear into a negative pleasure, allowing the viewer to enter the photographer’s realm as voyeur.”

Among other photographers whose work she admires, Saville mentions the Hungarian-born photographer Gyula Brassa and William Gedney. She was a student of Gedney’s while at the Pratt Institute; his photographs and journals are also part of the visual materials collection at Duke.

Saville is represented by the Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York City where she recently had a solo exhibition. Her work has been exhibited in a number of other prestigious galleries including The Photographers' Gallery (London), Galerie Baudoin Lebon (Paris), Jackson Fine Art (Atlanta), and Paul Kopeikin Gallery (Los Angeles). She has photographed all over the world, in both urban and pastoral settings. Within her collection at Duke are images from North Carolina, Vermont, Canada, Greece, and India. She is currently seeking the sublime in nocturnal Paris.

Maria Park Bobroff
Collection Development Intern
Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library