I love black-and-white photographs. I think they capture a mood, an atmosphere, better than colored photographs. A city, a building, a setting comes to life for me in the details of a black-and-white photo. Catherine Corman intended to bring Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles to life in Daylight Noir: Raymond Chandler's Imagined City.
Mystery author Betty Webb, in discussing noir said, "The Internet description of noir describes a crime drama, emphasizing moral ambiguity. It's in black-and-white." That definition works for Raymond Chandler's detective, Philip Marlowe, and for these photographs. Corman, the photographer, pairs her pictures with quotes from Chandler's books. In the preface, Jonathan Lethem describes the "scenes of love, strife, and murder that fill Chandler's books." He discusses Catherine Corman's "supremely evocative catalogue of haunted places."
In her introduction, Corman says, "Raymond Chandler was called the epic poet of Los Angeles. He kept the corruption and violence of the city simmering just beneath a surface populated by reclusive millionaires, femmes fatales, secretive bell hops, suspect chauffeurs, and one honest man, private detective Philip Marlowe."
There's a loneliness, a quietness, in these pictures. Black-and-white evokes crime and suspicion so much better than colored photos. The darkness hovers in every photo. Corman walks the reader through Chandler's Los Angeles, location by location, beginning with the General Sternwood residence. The Sternwood oil fields, the Lido pier, Stillwood Crescent Drive. Each photo is connected to Chandler and Marlowe. They are secretive, shadowy pictures. Hotels, clubs and city halls all seem tinged with corruption and darkness in a black-and-white photo. Was this the Los Angeles that Chandler knew, that he saw in his Philip Marlowe stories?
Catherine Corman doesn't need night to allow Chandler's Los Angeles to feel haunted. Her Daylight Noir: Raymond Chandler's Imagined City, brings the shadows and moods of his stories to life.
Daylight Noir: Raymond Chandler's Imagined City by Catherine Corman. Charta, ©2009. ISBN 9788881587247 (paperback), 128p.
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