Image by Rafael Y. Herman at MACRO Testaccio exhibition. Image by Rafael Y. Herman at MACRO Testaccio exhibition. "Somnum Rubrum," by Rafael Y. Herman. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

You won't believe these photos were taken in total darkness

Rafael Herman's images look like beautiful daytime landscapes, but there's more to his work than meets the eye.

At first glance, Rafael Y. Herman's photos don't seem all that exceptional.

They are simple images, often of ordinary landscapes awash in bright light. At best they are slightly abstract; odd shapes and dazzling colors tend to pop up from time to time.

However, once you learn that the photos are actually taken in the middle of the night, beneath the cover of darkness, you quickly gain an entirely new appreciation for the Israeli photographer's work.

An image from Rafael Y. Herman's "The Night Illuminates the Night" exhibition.This image, though it looks as if it were taken during the afternoon, was actually shot in the middle of the night. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Herman's exhibit, "The Night Illuminates the Night," is currently at Rome's contemporary art museum MACRO Testaccio.

We visited recently and were blown away by how much the images appeared to have been taken during the day. But, in fact, as a video installation showed, Herman takes the images in the pitch black of night. This very fact heightens the viewing experience dramatically.

An image from Rafael Y. Herman's "The Night Illuminates the Night" exhibition.Rafael Y. Herman finds inspiration in Israel's various natural landscapes. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

The method Herman uses is a closely guarded secret, or so it seems. He oftentimes captures his images with very little knowledge of what he is photographing, only discovering what he has after the film's been developed.

“I use a long exposure following the results of the calculation and I manipulate the cameras in order to achieve exactly what I need,” he has said of this method. “I deconstruct it in order to obtain this kind of picture, with no light; there is no digital manipulation in the pictures.”

An image from Rafael Y. Herman's "The Night Illuminates the Night" exhibition.Herman has lived all over the globe. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Herman has traveled the world, living in New York City, South America and Europe, but it is this work, which he created in his home country of Israel, that has captured the imagination of a global audience.

He pursues his nocturnal research through portraits of three different environs: the rich and spiritually suggestive forests of Israel's Galilee, the wild flowers and fields of the Judean Mountains, and the Mediterranean Sea.

An image from Rafael Y. Herman's "The Night Illuminates the Night" exhibition.Rafael Y. Herman has developed a method that allows him to photograph images in complete darkness that look to have been made in daylight. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

For all his pioneering work, he has been asked to give a TED Talk and has become a prominent figure in the art world for his singular approach.

“If it is not seen, does it exist?” Herman asks in the MACRO Testaccio exhibition pamphlet. "If it exists, in what way? Is it exactly the way we see it in everyday light? What is the role of light in existence?”

We may never know the answers to any of these questions for certain, but that we even try to find them in the first place is in large part thanks to this Israeli artist.

An image from Rafael Y. Herman's "The Night Illuminates the Night" exhibition.The Mediterranean Sea in the middle of the night, as captured by Rafael Y. Herman's camera. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

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