Ira Serkes mounting one of the photographs for his solo show at the French Hotel in Berkeley. Photo: xxx
Ira Serkes with one of the photographs for his solo show at the French Hotel in Berkeley. Photo: courtesy Ira Serkes

Long-time Berkeley resident, Realtor and Berkeleyside contributing photographer Ira Serkes has been going to the French Hotel in the Gourmet Ghetto for years. A few weeks ago Serkes gave Angel, the “super-barrista” who works there, his business card which features a photograph Serkes took of the 2012 supermoon over UC Berkeley, and he inquired if the hotel might be interested in mounting a show of his night photography. The next day, Serkes got a call from Marta Yamamoto who curates the shows at the hotel. The answer was yes, and the result can be seen mounted on the brick walls of the hotel’s café through March 14.

Serkes says the idea of a show at the hotel came to him several years ago when he saw an exhibit of black-and-white photographs by Len Blau there. “I liked them so much I bought a print which hangs above my desk,” he says. 

Full moon setting over the Alameda Naval Air Station at twilight on Dec. 25, 2015. Photo: Ira Serkes

The show comprises 26 images captured around the Bay Area and all are either of the moon, or of neon lights, and are taken in low light, according to Serkes. Familiar landmarks include the UC Berkeley Campanile, Coit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge Tower and the Claremont Hotel.

In the flyer that accompanies the exhibition, Serkes writes that he has always been fascinated by the moon’s ever-changing shape, color and location.

“Blue twilight and lunar eclipses are when the moon is most magical,” he says. “Low light, night and lunar photography lets me capture the feeling.”

Ira Serkes’ photographs on show at the French Hotel. Photo: Ira Serkes

It is Serkes’ first solo show, although his photographs have been published by the Berkeley Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, and in Marie Claire magazine. Berkeleyside has featured more than 100 of his images.

Serkes says he was inspired to take up night photography about five years ago after seeing the work of photographer Sherry Glassman.

“Sherry’s the first person whose shoulders I was able to stand upon,” he says. Serkes complimented Glassman on her work, and asked her how she created her beautiful images. “She said it was easy, and that I would quickly learn how to do them,” Serkes says, adding that Glassman was also happy to offer “excellent advice.” “The rest is history,” he says.

Northbrae Tunnel, Berkeley. Photo: Ira Serkes

Other photographers whose work Serkes admires, and who have inspired him, include Alan Mah, John ViasHarold Davis, Tim Baskerville, Thomas Hawk, brothers Joe Parks and Daniel Parks, Ellie Stone and Stephen Oachs of Aperture Academy, and Frederic Larson, “who always knows where to be and when to be there.”

The prints on show at the French Hotel show are for sale, and can also be seen and bought online. The French Hotel is at 1538 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley 94709.

To find out what else is going on in Berkeley and nearby, be sure to check out Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. And submit your own events: it’s self-serve and free.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...