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Darkened Cities by Thierry Cohen imagines the starry skies we’d see in urban areas if we turned off all the lights.

About the project:

Before these pictures can exist, the sky from one place has to be superimposed upon cityscape from another. It is impossible to see this detail in the night sky above a city. Atmospheric and light pollution combine to make looking into the urban sky like looking past bright headlights while driving.

By travelling to places free from light pollution but situated on precisely the same latitude as his cities, Cohen obtains skies which, as the world rotates about its axis, are the very ones visible above the cities a few hours earlier or later. To find the right level of atmospheric clarity, Cohen has to go into the wild places of the earth, the Atacama, the Mojave, the western Sahara.

As more and more of the world’s population becomes urban, and as we lose our connection with the natural world, so it becomes plain that damage is caused by light pollution. There may be connections to certain cancers, and there are psychological burdens of permanent day. The ‘city that never sleeps’ is made up of millions of individuals breaking natural cycles of work and repose. Lose sight of the sky, and you become a rat in a lab.

Cohen hasn’t simply shown us the skies that we’re missing. His cities look dead under the fireworks display above No lights in the windows, no tracers of traffic. They are (in fact) photographed in daylight, when lights shine out less brightly. In urban mythology the city teems with energy and illumines everything around it. Cohen’s pictures are crafted to say the opposite. These are cold cities, cut off from the seemingly infinite energies above.

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