Neon Dreaming

Soho Thriller 35mm series by Felicity AspdenSoho Thriller 35mm series by Felicity Aspden


I don’t have an addictive personality. I smoked for years before abruptly stopping without a second thought, scraping my last burning ember against a brick wall and flicking it into the darkness. If I ever do have a cigarette (twice a year at most, clutching onto a warm glass of red wine, on the coldest Winter night, surrounded by people I don’t know, outside of a bar that I don’t want to be at) I smoke it to the butt and don’t crave another. I drink until my eyes start to mist over and my head starts to haze, then I stop, switch to water, recover.

So, why is it that the slow, constant buzzing of a neon light flickering in defiance of the darkness attracts me like a moth to a flame? It has become an obsession. Before I started doing photography I was oblivious to the fascination with light, and now? I’m hooked.

I spend my nights walking down dimly lit streets with frozen fingertips. Catching a flicker of red out of the corner of my eye sends me into a weird trance, suddenly I have tunnel vision, breaking off from whatever group I’m with to find the source of light. My phone slides out of my pocket in involuntary impulse as I trudge on.

There’s something so hypnotic about the colours burning brightly in their twisted tubes, the gas curving and convulsing in the glass. There’s something so satisfying in the way the coloured light touches everything; a Ferrari red scorched against my cold cheek as I hold my phone up to it, framing the perfect photograph.


Soho Thriller 35mm series by Felicity AspdenSoho Thriller 35mm series by Felicity AspdenSoho Thriller 35mm series by Felicity Aspden


To walk around and discover the perfect lighting by chance has produced some of my favourite photographs, pushing whoever I am with in front of the glowing signs or dazzling light to create shadows and silhouettes in the moonlight. Even when I write scripts or stories they are framed by the lighting; it sets an atmosphere, it makes you feel the things I want you to feel when you’re reading it.

It sounds crazy, but I can watch a whole film based entirely on the lighting. To me, watching a heart-wrenching scene play out illuminated by neon light is my ultimate visual dream. Two years ago I watched a documentary about “Filming in the Neon World” by Christopher Doyle, who is the cinematographer of one of my favourite directors, Wong Kar Wai. His vision is astounding, I’m in awe of it, but the moment that sticks in my head (my secret favourite moment) is when he simply says “I feel like a piece of neon”. A shared sentiment.

I started my Soho Thriller series after an unbearably painful breakup. In an attempt to suffocate my feelings, I walked the streets of Soho with my camera, my brother and his wife until the early hours of the morning. The series was shot entirely on 35mm film and is a continuous project. Although, when I’m scouring the streets of Soho next time, I won’t be in so much pain.


Soho Thriller 35mm series by Felicity AspdenSoho Thriller 35mm series by Felicity AspdenSoho Thriller 35mm series by Felicity Aspden

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