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Midcentury by moonlight: Photographer’s book showcases modern Palm Springs homes

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Tom Blachford’s noirish images highlight the mystery and beauty of desert architecture

Midnight Modern Palm Springs images
Ship of the Desert Wilson & Webster, 1936, from the newly released Midnight Modern book, which focuses on images of midcentury modern homes in Palm Springs
All images by Tom Blachford

Palm Spring’s magnificent modern architecture, a showcase of midcentury swagger, often gets photographed in all its glory, under the striking desert sun. For Australian photographer Tom Blachford, who has taken a different approach to capturing the city’s unique built environment, the real style and mystery comes out at night.

In his newly released book, Midnight Modern, Blachford shows compiles dozens of images of the city shot in total darkness, illuminated only by the light of the moon, highlighting the curves and angles of beautiful buildings, as well as classic cars, with a subtle glow. His work has been in the news for years—he began shooting in the city after visiting in 2013—but this collection of his work, released earlier this week by powerHouse Books, goes beyond just the well-publicized and famous homes, such as the Kaufmann Desert House or Frank Sinatra Twin Palms House, and also looks at some lesser known gems.

Blachford may get compared to Slim Aarons and Julius Shulman, who famously add a lifestyle approach to covering modern architecture. But his work adds a noirish quality, offering a dark, mysterious take on a city of pools and palm trees. Curbed has an exclusive set of images from the new book below; as Blachford once told Wired. "If these walls could talk they would put even the most scandalous and stylish moments of Mad Men to shame."

Midnight Modern Palm Springs Photos
Home designed by Richard Harrison in 1964
Midnight Modern Palm Springs
Designed by Donald Wexler in 1962, with 1963 Studebaker Avanti
Midnight Modern Palm Springs
Kaufmann Desert House by Richard Neutra, 1946
Midnight Modern Palm Springs
Edris House by E. Stewart Williams in 1954
Palmer & Krisel home from 1957 with a 1964 Cadillac de Ville convertible
Midnight Modern Palm Springs
1967 home, architect unknown
Midnight Modern Palm Springs
Hal Levitt home design from 1961, with a 1957 Ford Thunderbird
Midnight Modern Palm Springs
Frey House II by Albert Frey from 1963