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The Origins of Jersey Noir

Asbury Pulp Editor’s Note: Our dark little hearts lit up like the end of a Lucky Strike when Mark Krajnak sent us images from his JERSEY NOIR series. In the black and white images we saw the distillation of a lifetime’s worth of fantasies of how life could – and should – be for all time.

When the prose matched the pictures we were all in – and JERSEY NOIR as a weekly series was born. Each Friday, Asbury Pulp will post another installment of the series – a sort of ongoing Image & Word serial for the digital age.

Fortunately, Krajnak has no shortage of material; he’s been at this game for years. Many around Asbury Park may know him for some other images – stunning full-color, daylight shots taken the past few year’s at the annual Polar Bear Plunge from Asbury’s beaches. We even featured one such photo last year. We thought it was a simple promo picture sent with a press release. We didn’t know there was a character with a fedora out in the water… )

The prolific photographer is probably also known for many other styles of images…JERSEYSTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY in their totality. But we’re running with the JERSEY NOIR as we let Mark introduce himself to readers below.

And hey, Asbury Pulp contributors are a creative lot. Whenever possible, we’re happy to support their efforts by offering some of their work for sale. Below, check out the JERSEY NOIR 2014 calendar (also pictured above). It’s a sweet buy and you’ll be sure to never miss a dirty day with it hanging on your wall.  

Now, here’s Mark Krajnak:

The Origins of Jersey Noir

By Mark Krajnak

I’ve always been a fan of mystery, detective and crime fiction. I started with the Hardy Boys and worked my way to reading Sherlock Holmes stories in grade school. I remember my dad talking about Mickey Spillane. I didn’t read the Mike Hammer stories till much later but then enjoyed the vivid descriptions and economy of words. It was around college that I started to get into the classic film noirs, too.

It was harder back then (in the early ‘90s) – there was no TCM or NetFlix or YouTube, so they really were the “late movie.” Now, it’s much easier to get up to speed on these classics. The Maltese FalconThe KillersOut of the PastThe Third Man– these are my favorites now and I watch them whenever they are on.

I started my Jersey Noir photography series about five years ago. I found I liked to craft these conceptual images, and the short stories that go along with them. The main character is a bit ambiguous – is he a broken good guy or a not-so-good mug living on the edge of society, trying to gain some purchase in this world by any means necessary? That, to me, is the crux of noir – you’re never quite sure but you want to see what will happen.

A femme fatale pops up now and again, too. She’s another institution of classic noir – the dame trying to get one over, making a good man go bad. Just watch Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings. She’s there and she’s that.

I draw inspiration not only from the world of film noir, but from the old pulp masters the likes of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich, David Goodis, and Patricia Highsmith as well. Music, too, is a big source of inspiration. Bruce Springsteen, The Gaslight Anthem, Social Distortion, Steve Earle…often, their lyrics provide me with inspiration to shoot a new image or they may get worked into the captions.

From the Turnpike to the back streets, the New Jersey landscape itself provides fertile and inspiration for these photos.

Because, in the end, there’s noir…and then there’s Jersey Noir.

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