Photos by Markus Henttonen

House nr 1009versio2

Silent Night is about American houses in their festive lights in Christmas time. But these are not just pictures of houses. The shadows and darkness combined to the festive lights add up to a feeling that is at the same time compelling, intriguing and ominous. Just the visual aspect is demanding, the lighted houses rise up in the dark wanting to be seen. And it is ok to look at the surface but not any deeper. There is clearly a line you are not supposed to cross. A social code to what is ok, what we show outside. And to these festive lights and decorations time in America include the tradition to go drive around the neighbourhoods to see all the lights, find the biggest and brightest. Starting back in my first travel to L.A. in late 2011, this was a totally new visual environment and also a new tradition for me to be discovered.

At first the houses caught my visual eye, of course. It was so different to what I am used to.
I quickly realised the houses made me feel something more, they made me dive in to these new stories and feelings that were no longer just American or even Christmas related.

I felt all kinds of feelings while photographing in the empty streets. My mind started to create things, the shadows and lights paired an interesting combination, I was not sure where I was and if it was safe anymore. It was beautiful and quiet and still my mind was creating these stories not the loveliest. The lack of people and the darkness and stillness did just that. And all the time the houses with black windows seemed to somehow be gazing back at you.

I am convinced that the media and news guided my thinking and raised the fear even more I would have the tv open in the house to watch the morning news. And I would discover that some elderly man had shot a young man who accidentally drove to a wrong driveway picking up a friend, or how little children had found a gun while playing home and the play ended tragically. Not to mention the stories of domestic violence appearing in many ways and that seem to be as common no matter where you are. And on the late nights around Christmas I would be out photographing and everything was so still as if all the people had just disappeared.

I have always been interested in photographing the relationship between people and the urban environment, I find it fascinating and inspiring. This series is a clear continuation to the topic, but what makes it more intimidating and question arousing then anything I have done before has to do with the lack of any people in the photos. But there only appears to be no one there, still the presence of people is obvious. The streets are empty and there is no one actually present but you can sense someone there, maybe inside, behind the swinging curtain or an outsider, observing in the dark.

Which is really a safer place to be? Where is everyone? Why does the darkness feel so frightening? The pictures of the houses in the silent night are full of stories of people, of the society we live in and everything around us. Everyone will look at the pictures and relate to the rising stories from their own perspective, based on your own experiences, feelings, life events.

There are as many stories to these as there are viewers.

Photo: Markus Henttonen

Photo: Markus Henttonen

Photo: Markus Henttonen

Photo: Markus Henttonen

Photo: Markus Henttonen

Photo: Markus Henttonen

Photo: Markus Henttonen

Photo: Markus Henttonen

Photo: Markus Henttonen

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