“You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar
When I met you
I picked you out, I shook you up and turned you around
Turned you into someone new.”
The Human League ‘Don’t You Want Me’

La Nuit Américaine is a 1973 French film starring Jacqueline Bisset and directed by Francois Truffaut.  In French, ‘Nuit Americaine’ (American night) is a cinematography / photography process where sequences shot outdoors in daylight are captured using tungsten (artificial light) or infrared film stock and underexposed (or dimmed during post production) to appear as if they are taking place at night.  The English title of the film is ‘Day for Night’, which is the English term for the process.

The 1981 pop video for ‘Don’t You Want Me’ by The Human League pays homage to ‘Day for Night’.  The video’s director, Steve Barron, was influenced by Francois Truffaut and ‘Day for Night’.  The clapper board seen in the video bears the inscription “Le League Humaine” as a tribute to Truffaut.

On a recent photoshoot with Melissa I was playing around with a smoke machine to see what effects I could create.  It was actually my first time using a smoke machine, and in some of the shots I really liked the way that the smoke was enveloping her.  Shooting through smoke led to lower contrast on the images and I don’t mind that.  When converted to black and white I loved the overall mood of the images, as though they were shot in a dim nightclub.

La Nuit Américaine (Day for Night) lighting diagramThe images were lit with four lights (Bowens studio flash units).  Medium softbox for main light at 8 o’clock; large softbox for fill at around 7 o’clock; a rim light on either side of her and slightly behind.  See lighting diagram.

I don’t enter many photographic competitions, however as there was one coming up I decided to enter the first photograph to see what reaction it would get.  Knowing that photography judges can often get hung up on titles, I deliberately gave it an obscure title of ‘La Nuit Americaine’ for fun and because I thought it seemed quite fitting  (just calling it ‘Melissa’ seemed so mundane).

Well, it didn’t win…  But it didn’t lose either.  It gained a ‘Commended’, so quite pleasing.

And the moral of this story is, take photographs that you like and are proud of.  If other people like them that’s great, if they win competitions that’s great, but pleasing yourself and having fun with your photography is the main thing.

Click to enlarge and please feel free to post a comment below.  Thanks for reading!

Melissa - La Nuit Américaine (Day for Night)

La Nuit Américaine

Melissa - La Nuit Américaine (Day for Night)

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