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September 3, 2008 > Dark, dangerous alleys

Dark, dangerous alleys

By Mona Shah

They are dark, dangerous places where you are warned not to go. But for Fremont resident and photographer Xavier Nuez, who specializes in urban blight photography, these alleys are his inspiration and second home. "Long after dark, I venture into bleak urban settings, seeking out dramatic stories and elusive splendor. With the city humming in the background, I find inspiration where there should not be any. My alleys are an inverted reality," asserts Nuez.

For many years, late at night he has ventured into some of the country's most threatening corners that frequently lead to trouble. Whether it is an eerie alley in Compton, California, an inner-city ruin in Detroit, or a dead-end back-lot in Brooklyn, his pilgrimage has a purpose. "With a family history of homelessness, I carried the belief that I was next, and developed a need to create monuments out of these irrelevant places."

"My outings are determined and intense adventures and often lead to journeys into dangerous neighborhoods - pilgrimages that have repeatedly resulted in trouble. I have run from street gangs, been accosted by crazed drug addicts, and have had guns pointed at me. If the police see me lurking in a dark alley, I am questioned - or worse. Although positive life-affirming perceptions are not usually associated with dark and decaying alleys, upon a closer look they do exist. Within this acute urban decay, I find moments of peace," explains Nuez.

A selection of Nuez's photographs will be featured in exhibitions at Stanford Art Spaces Gallery (SAS), Stanford University, and at San Joaquin Delta College's L.H. Horton Gallery in Stockton.

Nuez uses three Hasselblad film cameras, two of which are more than 50-years old. To capture the vivid colors in his images he shoots with lights and colored gels that are combined with long exposures, sometimes more than one-hour.

Dark, dangerous alleys
The exhibition at SAS runs through October 23
Center for Integrated Systems
420 Via Palou, Stanford
Gallery hours: Monday through Friday
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The exhibition at the J. H. Horton, Jr. Gallery runs through September 18
5151 Pacific Avenue, Stockton
Gallery hours: Tuesday to Saturday
Please call to confirm hours.

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