The photophysical properties of two isomeric 2-(2′-pyridyl) benzindoles depend on the environment. Strong fluorescence is detected in nonpolar and polar aprotic solvents. In the presence of alcohols, the emission reveals an unusual behavior. Upon titration of n-hexane solutions with ethanol, the fluorescence intensity goes through a minimum and then increases with rising alcohol concentration. Transient absorption and time-resolved emission studies combined with ground- and excited-state geometry optimizations lead to the conclusion that two rotameric forms, syn and anti, coexist in alcohols, whereas in nonpolar and aprotic polar media, only the syn conformation is present. The latter can form cyclic complexes with alcohols, which are rapidly depopulated in the excited state. In the presence of excess alcohol, syn → anti rotamerization occurs in the ground state, promoted by the cooperative action of nonspecific and specific effects such as solvent polarity increase and the formation of hydrogen bonds to both donor and acceptor sites of the bifunctional compounds. © 2007 American Chemical Society.