June 28, 2016

by Jeramy Pritchett

Annie Agnone is a National Geographic Young Explorer who decided to travel across America and document what the rest do, while most of us are fast asleep. On my yearly trip to Telluride, Colorado, I wandered into a gallery and was captivated by her imagery.

BFM: Explain what prompted you to start the America By Night project?
My reasons for starting America by Night have never been what I wanted them to be. I always wish there was some, some memorable night moment from my childhood, magical or terrifying‚ something deeply personal driving the work. But there’s nothing like that.

Before beginning America by Night, I didn’t really know or feel much of anything about night, though it came and went every day. It was this lack of emotional investment‚ the realization that night and its people and activities occupied a blank spot in my mind‚ that made me want to begin this project. Not knowing anything about such a big part of my life felt wrong. I wanted to know what I was missing and tell the stories that were out there in the night in the process.

I feel like I'm continually surprised by the openness I encounter in the world.

BFM: What were your biggest obstacles in doing this project and how did you overcome them? 
My biggest obstacle, while working on this project, was myself. I am NOT a night person. I’m at my best first thing in the morning, then start winding down around 3 p.m. Trying to not only stay awake but also be mobile, energetic and curious night after night was really a challenge.

Photos by Annie Agnon & Jeramy Pritchett
Annie Agnon

Adopting a nocturnal sleep schedule can be hard for a lot of people, and it definitely didn’t help that when I finally did get to sleep it was during the heat of the day, in the summer, in my car, with my partner and our dogs. Not the best situation for getting real rest!

BFM: My Dad always told me nothing good happens after midnight. Based on your adventure what would you say to that?

Boy...I hate to contradict your dad, but I have to argue with this one! I grew up hearing much the same. I think the bad stuff that happens at night tends to be louder, brighter, more visible. It’s the bad stuff we watch on TV and read about in the papers. But, after a lot of all-nighters and meeting a lot of really great people who are awake at night for a wide range of reasons, I’d say that a lot of good happens after midnight, though sometimes it can be quieter, a little bit harder to see.

Photos by Annie Agnon & Jeramy Pritchett
Annie Agnon

BFM: What was the most surprising thing you learned about people that you think most people don’t know?

I feel like I’m continually surprised by the openness I encounter in the world. That so many people are willing to share their stories and lives and if you approach them with compassion and curiosity‚ it bowled me over every time.

BFM: Is there something you learned about yourself while crossing the country?

I never expected that I would come to love the night. By the end of the trip, I began to find driving through darkened towns so soothing and meditative. I felt so comfortable being out in the world at night despite my vision being compromised and the bad rep night gets. I feel like I replaced not knowing, and the discomfort of not being able to easily see and know what was out there at night, with wonder, with stories and with a desire to know more. Doing this project, learning who and what was out there in the dark, made night so much more accessible and alive for me. It was a gift.

Photo by Annie Agnon

Photo by Annie Agnon

Photo by Annie Agnon

Photo by Annie Agnon

Photo by Annie Agnon

BFM: What is the end goal of your project and what do you have planned for the future?

I’m not sure this project has an end goal in sight yet, but I do plan to write a nonfiction book based on the project. An exploration of night through the people who inhabit it, and my own journey learning to see night not as empty or frightening or limiting, but as a vibrant place filled with diverse people doing interesting things, as a time with much to offer.

BFM: What would you say to someone that is planning their own adventure?

Do it! And tell me know how I can follow along.

National Geographic Photographer Explorer Travel Documentary

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About The Author: Jacqueline Romano

Jacqueline Romano is the Creative Director & Editor of Blindfold Magazine. She feels it is her personal vocation to use her creative skills to raise awareness for people and organizations who are making positive change, both globally and locally.

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