For the past four years, artist Thierry Cohen has been working on a series called Villes Eteintes or Darkened Cities. The collection by the Paris-based Cohen depicts some key cities of the world as they would look at night, perhaps a couple of centuries ago before man invented smog emitting machines. Cohen does this by showing the various cities at night, devoid of artificial light.
Employing methods by early 19th century photographers like Gustave le Grey, Cohen is able to shoot images of certain locations, documenting the exact angle, time and longitude and latitude of his exposure. He then tracks the earth’s rotation to areas of atmospheric clarity like the Sahara, the Mojave, and the Atacama Desert, setting up his camera to shoot what is lost to modern city dwellers these days. A clear night sky.
Merging the two images, Cohen creates a single new image that combines a pristine sky along with today’s cityscapes. It is a visual that does not in organic reality exist, but is something certainly worth pondering about.
As explained in his website the work is meant provoke one to think.
“The work is both political and spiritual questioning not only what we are doing to the planet but drawing unexpected connections between disparate locations. Equally importantly it asks: what do we miss by obscuring the visibility of stars? As the world’s population becomes increasingly urban, there is a disjunction with the natural world which both Cohen and science posit causes both physical and psychological harm. Cities that never sleep are made up of millions of individuals breaking natural cycles of work and repose. Cohen’s photographs attempt to restore our vision, and in beautifully crafted prints and images offer the viewer a possibility – to re-connect us to the infinite energy of the stars.”
See the thought provoking Villes Eteintes or Darkened Cities here.