Photographer documents Wilson at night

Dave Jordano is Eyes on Main Street artist for September

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Dave Jordano captured this image of Moe's Mini-Mart during his Eyes on Main Street residency. Contributed photo by Dave Jordano
Dave Jordano captured this image of Moe's Mini-Mart during his Eyes on Main Street residency. Contributed photo by Dave Jordano

Dave Jordano, a world-renowned photographer, is spending the month of September as the Eyes on Main Street artist in residence.

The 70-year-old Detroit native now lives in Chicago, and this is his first time visiting the state of North Carolina.

“This is my 50th year as a photographer,’ said Jordano. “I’ve loved it since day one.”

Jordano was a young U.S. Army radio teletype operator stationed in Nuremberg, Germany, when a friend loaned him a camera one Saturday afternoon.

“I got that film in the darkroom and I just put that film around the roller and processed it and it was like an epiphany,” Jordano remembered. “I said, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’ It was that kind of a shocking moment and I have relished it ever since.”

Jordano’s earliest photographic subjects were buildings.

The woman at the photo lab complimented Jordano’s work.

“You have to be a photographer,” he recalled hearing her say. “You are different.”

“It all started there,” Jordano said. “I was in a beautiful German town and it was great to walk around and photograph.”

While in Europe, Jordano went to Greece for three months, backpacking with his camera, documenting the countryside.

The new photographer started buying photo equipment, a 35mm with a bunch of lenses and a 4-by-5 view camera.

When he returned to the United States, he enrolled in an art school and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from the College for Creative Studies in 1974.

Working in black and white, Jordano completed a huge architectural documentation project for the George Soroka Museum.

“I went out and photographed all of these endangered buildings that were slated for either demolition or they were falling apart,” Jordano said. “I got a whole list of buildings that needed to be documented, so I did that for the historical museum and gave them a whole archive and prints. That was a wonderful period for me to develop my own visual sensibilities and stuff.”

Over the years, Jordano has been honored with a wide range of awards and has published numerous books of photography.

He arrived in Wilson on Sept. 1 with a commitment to shoot a portrait each day he is here.

Jordano said Wilson has a lot of interesting buildings that have been subjects of his work.

“I have been shooting a lot of them at night,” Jordano said. “The industrial section of town is graphically interesting the way the streetlights light the buildings. They are kind of simple in their structure and form. I am looking for compositional arrangements and the color is quite different at night than what you see during the day, the mixture of the different color temperature lights that sort of blend into each other. All that is a wonderful discovery when you are taking a picture.”

The camera can see what the naked eye can’t during the night, especially the color hues.

“That’s the beauty of a lot of the night photography,” Jordano said.

Jordano has been doing night photography in Detroit for two and half years and just had a book published called “A Detroit Nocturne.”

It saddens Jordano to see so many buildings empty in Wilson, as is also the case in his hometown of Detroit.

“Architecturally, it’s sad,” Jordano said. “There are a lot of wonderful buildings here that are empty and I kind of question how and why that happened. The majority of the downtown area is vacant and I find that kind of surprising. A lot of these small towns around the country are drying up.”

Jordano said he is aware of the effort to revitalize downtown Wilson.

“It takes money to do that. It takes interest and I hope that that comes through,” Jordano said.

Jordano said the Eyes on Main Street photographic project, which just attained its nonprofit status, is a wonderful idea.

“Artists should be drawn to Wilson. I think it will be great,” Jordano said.

In his first week in the city, Jordano said he has been impressed with how friendly everyone has been.

“Almost everybody who I have asked to make a photograph of has agreed and said ‘Sure, you can take a picture of me if you like.’ I don’t get that all the time,” Jordano said. “It just seems like here, people are friendly and open.”