Arts interview

Capturing a temporary home

The Tech sits down with photographer Nora Vrublevska

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Photographer Nora Vrublevska presents her work in the exhibit “Cambridge at Night” at the MIT Wiesner Art Gallery, featuring long exposure, black and white photos of the MIT campus and nearby Cambridge.
NOra Vrublevska

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the print of the MIT boathouse was developed in a darkroom, when it was only printed in a darkroom. The previous version also stated images were inject printed, when they were inkjet printed. Additionally, Jennifer Recklet Tassi's name was incorrectly printed as Jennifer Recklet.

Cambridge at Night

Nora Vrublevska

Wiesner Student Art Gallery, Student Center Second Floor

Oct. 15 – Dec. 10, 2013

I sat down with Nora Vrublevska in the Wiesner Art Gallery, walls lined with her black and white prints, to discuss the inception of her exhibit entitled Cambridge at Night. Vrublevska, a native Latvian, has been interested in photography for most of her life. When she was younger, she saved her lunch money to buy 35mm film and develop photos, but she says, “I didn’t really know what I was doing; I was photographing at that time but I didn’t get really serious until I came here.”

Vrublevska moved to the United States in 2007, when her husband came to conduct his graduate studies in physics at MIT. The biggest change she felt when coming here was that she could do things that she liked, switch careers at will, and be supported by everyone around her. Vrublevska admits that the cultural change is sometimes hard to note, saying, “I’ve been here for such a long time that it feels like home; it’s more a culture shock now when I go back home to visit Latvia.” Even so, she knows she won’t be here forever, and that knowledge is part of what sparked her Cambridge at Night series.

One foggy night, Vrublevska was walking down Memorial Drive, and was struck by the image of the MIT boathouse with everything in the background obscured by fog. This image was the first in the series, and is smaller than the others. She liked how different the boathouse looked from when she usually passed it in daylight hours, and was inspired to create a series of images documenting places that had become significant to her in her time living here that she could look back on once she’d moved elsewhere.

“How architecture and how the city looks at night is much more compelling to me than how it looks during the day,” Vrublevska says about her choice to shoot after dark. Part of it is how the clouds streak and water becomes smooth in long exposure shots of nighttime. The absence of people in daily busy scenes also adds to her ideal aesthetic. “A lot of the places that I photograph … are busy, people walk through, but at night they become kind of lonely, and I like how that looks,” she explains.

The entire series is shot on black and white film. Although she often uses digital techniques for teaching at the New England School of Photography, Vrublevska much prefers film for her personal work. She says “there were more details and nuances in the grays and all the shades in black and white film” when she was shooting the night scenes, so she stuck with it. While the print of the MIT boathouse that started it all was printed in a darkroom, the subsequent images have been created using inkjet printing.

Vrublevska gives a big thanks to MIT Spouses & Partners, the Council for the Arts at MIT, The Wiesner Art Gallery, and Jennifer Recklet Tassi, who have made her photography as well as her adjustment as the wife of a student at the Institute possible.