Why I Create: the Visual Elements

As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, I studied film history, criticism, and theory, and was greatly influenced by the visual aesthetics of German Expressionism and the existential motifs in film noir. I was fortunate to study large format analog 4X5 photography  with renowned ariel photographer William Garnett. In one of our sessions dealing with artificial lighting, I had an early photographic epiphany: by lighting a toy "slinky" on a black stairwell with black backdrop and varying the shutter speed (i.e. slowing it down to varying degrees), I got the effect of a cascading waterfall of light, as if multiple perspectives of view were being simultaneously revealed.

Sometime later, after I had embraced digital photography, I recreated the effect in the streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia; but instead of utilizing a moving subject, the camera became the moving subjective observer/narrator. This new body of work, the photographs in the gallery "Nightscapes", represent my attempt to capture the collective and complex visual phenomenon of the neon lit streets of the nocturnal urban landscape. 

After my first shooting session in Siem Reap, from the back of a moving "tuk tuk", the nighttime streets had been transformed to a dynamic tapestry of light streaks and reflections that were floating in space, mysteriously transparent and solid at the same tim. What emerged was the interweaving of time, inviting the the viewer to explore abstraction and the visual phenomenon of perspective. Time and space had become a luminous blur of light and shadow, sometimes with the silhouette of an unknown "driver", which further suggested a mysterious noir narrative and journey into darkness, dreams, and the subconscious.

The visual elements seemed ideally suited to be intercut to the abstract space-jazz-fusion musical composition "Asteroids", and the resulting video was a perfect fit of abstract sound and image.


"The unique confluence of highly saturated colors, an intense sense of frozen motion and the flickering sense of the familiar set Adams' photographs apart as unique documentations. Through luminous traces, Doug Adams creates a neon-impressionism that makes us see the illuminated city with multiple perspectives simultaneously, and light as an active, dynamic force, in new way."

          --- Robert Stam; Professor of Film Studies at New York University, and author of "Unthinking Eurocentrism, Multiculturalism and the Media"

"Doug has created fantastic and otherworldly lighting effects in his "Nightscape" series that, quite frankly, I've been trying to create with painting for most of my career."

         ---Theophilus Brown, California figurative painter