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'Milwaukee Night And Day' Film Brings A Block To Life Through 10 Years Of Photos

Milwaukee Night and Day” is a film that takes place over one day in Milwaukee that actually captures 10 years of the city.

The film, created by filmmaker and former chair of the UWM Film Department Dick Blau, looks at single square block in downtown Milwaukee through photos that Blau has taken over the past decade. He began taking photos from his apartment balcony at the intersection of N. Plankinton and W. Wisconsin Avenues, but it wasn’t his intention at first to create a film.

“We had a view of the sky to the south, to the west, and then at the street all kinds of things were happening night and day, so I just began making pictures of them. I didn’t know what I was going to do with the pictures, I just made them at first,” says Blau.

He started by hanging a few photos in the hallway of his building and changing them every week or so. As the numbers of photos he had grew, Blau says he looked for other ways he could use them — eventually deciding to make a film.

As Blau started putting the photos next to each other, he decided he wanted to find a larger story he could tell through the photos. He began recording sound on his block to pair with the images and the idea that the film would take place over a single day took shape.

“It begins at four o’clock in the morning, it’s kind of half dream and half awake and all of a sudden, as you kind of move up through consciousness, all of a sudden you are in Milwaukee day where you see all of the construction and all the activity that goes on in the neighborhood,” he explains.

Credit Dick Blau
Dick Blau’s “Self Portrait in Alley” is one of the many scenes of his neighborhood included in “Milwaukee Night and Day.”

Blau says this film contains many scenes — a study of the Milwaukee weather, a catalogue of everything that people have left in this block and a look at social issues. The film documents places where homeless Milwaukeeans are having to live and the protests from the summer of 2020.

Both the sounds and the images are meant to draw attention to things that may be lost as noise while people are living their everyday lives.

“Both the idea of the pictures and the idea of the film is to draw things that are really part of our background into our foreground,” he says.

For Blau, the film is meant to show the life that his block on the west side of downtown has and his connection to the space.

“I think it’s one of the most interesting places I’ve ever lived. It’s alive 24 hours a day in all kinds of ways, it produces excitement, it produces anxiety,” he says.

Watch “Milwaukee Night and Day”:

Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.