• Darkened cities

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    In Darkened Cities, Thierry Cohen shows us what some of the world’s cities would look like without all the artificial lights that illuminate them from within but also blind us from seeing the stars lights and the night sky.

    As Francis Hodgson explainsCohen is also a fine technician, who has practised digital photography for longer than almost anyone else. But he is not practising for virtuosity alone. Cohen does not merely replace one sky with another for convenient photographic legibility. By travelling to places free from light pollution but situated on precisely the same latitude as his cities (and by pointing his camera at the same angle in each case), he obtains skies which, as the world rotates about its axis, are the very ones visible above the cities a few hours earlier or later. He shows, in other words, not a fantasy sky as it might be dreamt, but a real one as it should be seen.

    This is a very powerful treatment. It is laborious in the extreme. To find places with the right degree of atmospheric clarity, Cohen has to go – always on the latitudes of our cities – into the wild places of the earth, the Atacama, the Mojave, the northern wastes of Mongolia. Who among us beyond a handful of professional astronomers would know if Cohen cut the odd corner by finding a good sky not quite so remote? But photography has always had a very tight relationship to reality. A good sky is not the right sky. And the right sky in each case has a huge emotional effect.

    47 years ago, “René Burri, the great Swiss photographer, rushed out into the New York blackout of 5th November, 1965 with only 8 rolls of film and made 40 of the greatest pictures of a city at night that you will ever see.” (Hodgson) See the gallery here.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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