The William Blake Blog

Blakespotting: Philip Ringler’s Nocturnal Sunrise

I recently came across a series of stunningly beautiful photographs by Philip Ringler. Entitled Nocturnal Sunrise, this series of 21 images can be viewed on his web site at, as well as other work.

Ringler, who has an MFA from John F. Kennedy University, comes from the San Francisco Bay Area and has worked as a professional photographer since 1995. His exhibitions include Declassified (2006) and The Shadow Side of New Orleans (2004) as well as Nocturnal Sunrise (2009).

What attracted my attention to Ringler's work was an interview with Dean Brierly for the blog The Photographer Speaks, in which the photographer outlines some of his literary influences. As well as J. G. Ballard and Edgar Allen Poe, Ringler has the following to say about Blake:

William Blake’s poetry and etchings also move me deeply and have infused their influence into this series. In Blake’s poem “Auguries of Innocence,” there is the line “some are born to the endless night.” That idea always sends chills down my spine.
The images in Nocturnal Sunrise themselves more clearly demonstrate gothic and melancholy elements than other aspects of Blake's work, and - in reference to the line from Blake's Auguries - it is hard for me not to make a connection between Ringler's art and Jim Jarmusch's film Dead Man. Although very different in terms of subject matter, the aesthetic of decay that infuses many of the pictures, with beautiful, corroded textures as in "The Great Destroyer" and "The Great Depression", also call to mind some of Joel Peter-Witkin's photographs in Songs of Innocence and Experience. Of his images, Ringler describes them as neither pessimistic or optimistic, but paradoxical: "The images may be read as light emerging from darkness, darkness overtaking light, light infiltrating darkness, etc., but ultimately all of these ideas can coexist together." Blake himself was no fan of chiaroscuro (somewhat ironic, considering how many photographers working in monochrome appeal to him), but as a master of contraries he would certainly have approved of an artist seeking to paint with paradoxes.