Shortlisted for “First PhotoBook Award” by 2023 Paris Photo–Aperture PhotoBook Awards
Samuel James’ “Nightairs” consists of long-exposure photographs taken in the foothills of Appalachian Ohio over the course of four summers, from 2019 to 2022. Working exclusively at night and dusk, James observed the unique mating rituals of local firefly populations, capturing them as flying dots and streaks of yellow light painted into the natural landscape. The details of the chaotic, extraordinary beauty of these recorded dances vary according to season, time of night, and location—in all, James photographed twenty-six different species, which are identified and listed at the back of the book.
“Fireflies’ extraordinary sensitivity to their environment at each stage of their life renders their existence tenuous in the face of human alterations. Requisite to their survival is darkness where they display as adults, chemical-free, moisture-retaining soil and leaf litter where they dwell for most of their lives and feed as larvae, and suitable places for pupation and for female oviposition.
In eastern North America, habitat loss, pesticides, and light pollution all pose threats. The temporal compression of a photograph thus holds a cautionary resonance, as many displays could be forever consigned to the flattened dimension of the past. But should their habitat be allowed to regenerate, certain dialects of light will continue to evolve, adapting with the landscape.”
― from Samuel James’ afterword