cover image Midnight


Arlene Gottfried. powerHouse Books, $45 (128pp) ISBN 978-1-57687-166-9

In 1984, photographer Gottfried (The Eternal Light) became friendly with a club dancer who called himself Midnight.""We went to places like Coney Island and the Staten Island Ferry,"" she recalls in her introduction; Midnight, a former hustler who had done time in prison and""may have even robbed a bank,"" was comfortable in front of her camera. For 18 years, Gottfriend kept in touch with--and photographed--Midnight, tracing his life through periods of well-being and paranoid schizophrenia, relative prosperity and destitution. It was a hard cycle: he would hurt himself, be hospitalized, escape, wander in a hallucinatory a fog, get better and then get worse again. The 98 color photographs, arranged in chronological order though undated, show Midnight in costume, in repose, in the comfort of small kitchens and the harsh light of a Bellevue hospital room. Gottfried's photos are intimate and informal; they capture fleeting moments the way snapshots do. Watching the progress of time on Midnight's face is startling, as he goes from a smooth-skinned, lithe beauty to a pudgy fellow with a graying goatee. But""from some place in his silence and observation,"" Gottfriend writes,""he possessed an acute intuition and sensitivity to life."" Looking at these portraits of Midnight--clothed and nude, crazy and sane--is like looking at pictures of many different people. It is also like looking at a very personal document--a visual diary of a strange but deep friendship.