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B&H Photography Podcast

The B&H Photography Podcast, a weekly conversation about all things photography. With insightful and entertaining guests, we discuss the issues most important to the contemporary photographer.

Dec 29, 2022

In some locales, the period between Christmas and the New Year is known as the Wild Nights, where mischief reigns in the darkest days of the northern hemisphere. We’re digging into this theme for our last show of 2022, in a chat with photographer and producer of this very podcast, Jill Waterman, who has been documenting New Year’s Eve traditions and exploits around the globe for the past 38 years. We first spoke with Jill about this project in the two-part show Legacy and Commitment in January 2022. Since she’s now a full-fledged member of the podcast team, we thought we’d investigate some of her more memorable experiences a bit further.

Jill is still shooting this series primarily with film, so our conversation ranges from the whys and wherefores of making that choice, to how the growth of the Internet became an essential research tool in the lead up to the Millennium and beyond. We also shed light on the elusive Austrian Perchten and Bulgarian Kukeri, and discuss parading Philadelphia Mummers, Bahamian Junkanoo figures, and Cape Town, South Africa’s legendary Minstrel Parade. To learn about the most rewarding aspect of Jill’s project and find out where she’ll be ringing in New Year’s Eve 2023, pull up a seat, pop some bubbly and listen in!

Guest: Jill Waterman

Photos © Jill Waterman

Episode Timeline

2:35: The beginnings of the New Year’s Eve Project

4:28: Evolution of the project and approach over time

5:34: Shooting black and white film instead of monochrome digital captures

8:12: Opportunities of the Millennium

9:04: The growth of the Internet as a research tool and discovering locations for New Year’s Eve rituals

10:00: Documenting “Perchtenlaufs” in Austria during the Wild Nights

10:59: Common themes in different cultures: Mummer’s Parade in Philadelphia; Junkanoo in Nassau, Bahamas; and the Minstrel Parade in Cape Town, South Africa

14:48: The spread of oral New Year’s traditions and rituals: Burning Effigies and New Year’s Widows in Quito, Ecuador

16:32: Bulgarian Kukeri and New Year’s parade to scare away evil spirits in Razlog

17:28: Advance planning before arrival and proceeding with boots on the ground

18:46: The value of spontaneity and capturing action in the moment

19:58: Working through anxiety, emotional spikes, and physical challenges

21:09: Assessing coverage and reviewing images after the fact

22:12: Underwhelming celebrations, and New Year’s Eve during COVID lockdown

25:50: Episode break

26:35: Jill’s analog camera kit: Nikon F3 HP, a 35-70 mm f/2.8 zoom and 24 mm f/2.8 prime lenses

27:45: Black and white films used—Ilford HP5, Delta 400, FP4, Delta 100—and diluted development to minimize contrast

29:23: The most rewarding aspect of the New Year’s Eve Project

30:41: Working through language differences and being open to communication

32:15: Experiencing the Pied Piper syndrome

32:45: Big crowds and safety issues on New Year’s Eve

35:36: This year’s destination, recent New York Foundation for the Arts award, and project links

Guest Bio: Born and raised in Massachusetts, Jill Waterman has been based in New York since 1985. Her personal work is centered in long-term photo projects, such as the ongoing New Year’s Eve Project and other aspects of her focus on night photography. Her photographs have been exhibited internationally and widely featured in press and media. Highlights include a 1997 arts documentary for Deutsche Welle TV in Berlin, Germany; a 2003 Today Show interview with Katie Couric; and a 2015 documentary for the web TV show Culture Connect. Waterman’s first book, the technical volume Night and Low Light Photography, was released by Amphoto books in August 2008. Her professional background includes a past career in image licensing, editorial positions in custom publishing, and her current role as creative producer for the B&H Photography Podcast.

Stay Connected:

New Year’s Eve Project Documentary:

New Year’s Project Silvester Stories NFT: