A sentimental study of storefronts, Franck Bohbot’s Light On series presents a nocturnal exploration of “the city that never sleeps.” Shot from august 2013 through March 2015, the series presents façades that boast still-standing Googie marquees of yesteryear to undeniably contemporary exteriors. Ranging from theatres, delis, peep shows, restaurants, corner stores, city landmarks, and hotels, the subjects of Light On offer a nostalgic glimpse into the timelessness of Manhattan’s perpetually buzzing luminescence.
In order to fully present the context and architectural setting of each storefront, Bohbot opts to present not only the glowing lights themselves, but also the corners, streets, or even buildings that they illuminate. Although the series favors shots of Manhattan’s metropolitan landscape over portraits of its city-dwellers, it is not entirely devoid of people; gradually, “a protagonist appears, as if it were a movie set,” introducing Bohbot’s interpretation of the storefront as stage. While each structure is either brightly lit by fluorescence or bathed in a wash of neon, the photographs are rendered in subdued pastels and filtered through a hazy fog. This aesthetic, along with the predominant absence of people, results in a melancholic atmosphere reminiscent of Edward Hopper paintings and evocative of staged theatrical sets – further conveying the relationship between Bohbot’s real-life surroundings and the artificial touch of theatre.
Retro in appearance yet contemporary by nature, the photographs featured in Light On convey an illuminated aesthetic that both celebrates modernity and longs for the past in an ironically ageless paradox.
Text by Kelly Richman