The Architectural League of New York recently featured artist/photographer/printmaker Michael Neff’s captivating ongoing project “The Night Shadow” on their website. Brooklyn-based Neff outlines the contours of shadows with chalk and then photographs the resulting drawings.
“I chose chalk for this project because it seemed right. Much like shadows, chalk is impermanent. I also recognized that many shadows fall on buildings and my intention was to share something beautiful and surprising, not anger home or business owners. By choosing chalk over paint or ink, I left the outcome up to those who chose to engage. If someone didn’t like the work, they could wash it away or wait for it to rain.
I draw and photograph all of these works at night. Night in New York City is surprisingly bright. During the day, shadows change quickly, which inevitably results in distorted tracings. Shadows cast by electric lights gave me the opportunity to spend time on each piece and make very intricate drawings. I once spent 3 1/2 hours making a drawing on Hudson Street that was probably 150 feet long and 8 or 10 feet wide.
The photograph is an important part of the process, acting as documentation and a vehicle to share the work, so the fact that the drawing is fugitive doesn’t bother me. But I enjoy hearing that people have run across the drawings in person. There haven’t been that many and they don’t last very long, so there’s something special about encountering the work out in the city itself.”