Eerie Large Format Photographs of Central Park Taken in the Middle of the Night


New York-based photographer Michael Massaia‘s images are easily identified for two reasons: first, because they’re all very distinct, black-and-white, large format photographs; and second, because most of them are taken in the middle of the night… a result of Massaia’s struggle with insomnia.

His recent series Deep In a Dream — Central Park is no exception to that rule.

In it, Massaia shows NYC’s world-famous park at its most deserted. Captured between the hours of 2am and 6am, the photographs lend an eery, borderline surreal aesthetic to a city and location that is usually vibrant and overflowing with energy and activity.

In the above video, Massaia explains why it is he photographs with large format cameras and details the behind-the-scenes process of creating his own platinum prints in his basement. Coming in at just over five minutes, it’s a great piece to accompany the series.

Give the video a watch for a little more background into, and then enjoy a collection of images from the series below:








If Massaia’s style seems familiar, that’s because we’ve featured his work once before. To see more of his distinct large format images, check out our previous coverage here, or head over to his website where you can browse through his newest project called Deep In a Dream – Sheep Meadow, his first portfolio to feature people.

(via Faith Is Torment)

Image credits: Photographs by Michael Massaia and used with permission

  • Glen Berry

    He actually said, because large format photography is a hard process, it “validates it” for him. So, if my photos are hard to execute, that will “validate” my end results?

    Conversely, if my photos are easy to execute, my end results will have no artistic merit?

  • Dylan Vogel

    “A lot of people will talk bout the process (I’m not about the process)”
    “large format photography is hard to do, that validates it.”

    pretty sure that the photography world has been post photo-elitism since the 1980’s…get a grip, a discussion of medium should include the utility and effect on the process, not an artists attempt to validate their self importance.

  • Burnin Biomass

    The processing (printing) just isn’t for me.

  • uaio

    Beautiful work! Loved the video. Thanks for sharing.

  • maverickmage

    For some people, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. So yes, for others, a more difficult process can be more gratifying than an easier one. For example, in rock climbing, why do some people take a harder path when an easier one exist when the goal is to reach the top?

    He stated his opinion on what works for him and what motivates him. He didn’t say that your work was rubbish because it was “easy”. Why take offense at it? Did he say that others work don’t have artistic merit because it was easy to execute?

    Take a chill pill man. Learn to accept others’ artistic vision. You don’t have to like it, but there’s reason why you should twist it around and put words in his mouth.

  • genotypewriter

    Btw, have you shot large format?

  • genotypewriter

    Why do things look a lot like HDR? Anyway…

    Those who are attacking the photographer because he likes large format… the guy can’t sleep and he needs something to do all night. Give him a break.

    And those who are saying it’s what’s in the frame that matters don’t realise that most of photography is about what’s around the frame. A skilled painter could produce frame-fulls of beautiful work just like any skilled photographer. But the value of a photo is in the thing being real at a certain moment in time. How you get to that place and moment is just as interesting and relevant as what’s in the frame.

    Don’t dis large format unless you’ve used it. It’s a difficult thing to do and it certainly makes you a better small format (full frame, etc.) photographer too. But not the other way around.

  • Jim Johnson

    I have. It makes me feel superior.

    In all honesty, large format can teach you a lot, slow you down your work (a good thing sometimes), and has it’s own value, but a only photographers really care about how the image was made if it’s a good image.

  • Jim Johnson

    Yeah, there is something… I don’t know… “off” about the photos. There is one with street lights in it, but they are no brighter than the surroundings. There seems to be a quite a bit of manipulation in these, which I ‘m not really against, but there comes a point where the manipulation is distracting rather than enlightening. I think these have passed that point.

    I actually find large format easier than small camera photography. Because I know that it will take time, I feel no pressure to get the shot right away. With a small camera, I feel a sense of immediacy to take the photo, and I’m often having to fight to make myself slow down.

  • genotypewriter

    I also can’t say the overall look is to my liking but as long as the photographer liked it, who are we to judge.

    As for LF being easier… That would be the case if you’re shooting the same sorts of stuff people typically shoot with LF while combing their long beards :) Try doing some dynamic or handheld LF shots… far more difficult than doing the same with a DSLR although releasing the shutter is still a press of a button.

  • darylcheshire

    Fascinated by the first photo the bridge in Central Park. Looks medieval but researching the history of Central Park would place the bridge about 1850 to 1880.

  • Jim Johnson

    What do you mean by “dynamic”? Are you just talking about handheld like the old press cameras or are you talking about art shots, or something else entirely (large format street photography?)?

    Personally, I don’t find large format that much more difficult once you learn to factor in bellows extension. Often times, I find it is easier to get better images from a large format (because it is film and the tonal range is much smoother) without having to make sure I am spot on with exposure and such.

  • Aezreth

    It looks like these photos were underexposed and then badly dodge & burned in photoshop to try and save them. His previous work had the same amateurish look.

  • docholliday666

    Yup, that’s what I see…short tonal range, lamps that don’t “glow” correctly. Either bad exposure or bad darkroom technique. I’ve shot a lot of 8×10…at night…and none ever looked this thin.

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  • Alan Dove

    If he’d done this series in the ’70s, they would’ve been mug shots.

  • genotypewriter

    Yes by dynamic I meant dynamic environments and subjects other than old barns, landscapes and seated people :)

    The bellows factor is the most overblown thing. You can even guess it. It’s far more difficult to get the focus right with the lens wide open, load the holder, close the shutter, take out the dark slide and taking the shot before the subject has moved. That’s without the time taken for metering, transferring it to the lens and cocking the shutter.

    Also I disagree that tonal range of film is easy to work with. If you’re shooting colour reversals you have lot of issues, especially with wide lenses. Pushing any more than 1 stop makes things fall apart. Digital can be pushed 2 stops with virtually no issues… several stops more before looks like rubbish… e.g. people make pseudo HDRs from single digital files.

  • ferrellmc

    I agree Maverickmage, Glen Berry’s comment is shallow and designed to make himself look smart. The “let’s find a flaw and point it out” approach. He missed the essence of Michael’s work.

  • Mark Penrice

    Without the minutes to spare on watching the whole thing … is this IR, or just long exposure HDR with some odd postprocessing?

  • genotypewriter

    And what’s wrong with photographers caring?

    To appreciate any art, you need to have been an artist in it. Others can only imagine what it’s like.