The Nightscape series by Elsa Bleda creates a romantic-mystical mood. The harsh yet alluring use of neon light is nothing new, but still it represents something futuristic, while still harking back to a retro aesthetic that has entered the global subconscious thanks to movies like Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell or Chungking Express. The South African Photographer Elsa Bleda’s ongoing photo series of a neon-lit Johannesburg draws inspiration from these sources.
Born in France but having spent her life travelling between a multitude of cities with her artist mother, Bleda finally settled in South Africa when she was 18. Her work cuts through the clutter of different architectural styles fighting quietly for prominence in the Johannesburg skyline. Instead of the daytime hustle and bustle, business and corporate greed, she captures the city while it’s sleeping.
The images are engulfed in magenta and cyan with a pinch of gray and black. The neon colors transform the unsightly concrete blocks into fairy tale castles. Each photo is a mystery and a revelation at the same time, it is an invitation to the viewer to sharpen the look for the hidden beauty in their everyday surroundings.
It’s clear that Bleda does not take her city for granted, especially with statements like these: “I used to tell my friends that I feel something in this city that I’ve never felt anywhere else. There is something very Gothic, and it gets confusing. Buildings are confusing. You have this Brutalist architecture, then Art Deco, and then no one around. And this air, this atmosphere… After certain hours, everything closes down. It has that haunting atmosphere from the past. Cape Town doesn’t have this. Durban doesn’t. Jo’burg specifically has it.” Check out Elsa Bleda’s images in throughout, and make sure you follow her on Instagram to keep posted on her amazing work.