by Arlene Gottfried
Photography / Portraiture
7.57 x 11.25 inches
96 four-color photographs
During the summer of 1984, photographer Arlene Gottfried met Midnight, the man who was to become both a close confidant and the subject of her photography as she documented the next two decades of his life.
At first, Midnight was a handsome and charming companion who danced and performed at nightclubs. But as time passed, he began to behave in an increasingly bizarre fashion, including being rescued by police at the top of the Williamsburg Bridge, and a stint at Bellevue Hospital. Soon after being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, what followed were years of auditory hallucinations, self-mutilation, and other extreme behavior. Despite the endless cycles of hospitalization, jail, counseling, medication, and sudden disappearances, Gottfried stood by Midnight, who ended up for a time in a men’s shelter.
A visual journal of simple yet gripping portraits revealing the ravages—and redemption—of time, Midnight is shockingly intimate and profoundly touching. Gottfried shows Midnight in his many modes: playful and coy, straightforward and self-conscious, wild-eyed and distant. Gottfried’s images reveal an individual wavering perilously between states of lucidity and madness, mutating between youthful abandon and age-affected disorientation and back again in a frighteningly few short years. The elasticity with which Midnight absorbs such radically different personas and age-based appearances before our eyes perhaps has never been documented before, and surely not with such intense penetration into one individual’s bafflingly elusive psyche.
“The photographs make me sad because I know what a warm, gentle, intelligent soul Midnight is, and I also know how he suffered.”