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What Cities Would Look Like Without Light Polution

By Ryan Hanson on April 1st 2013

A major part of photography is cityscapes, typically lots of bright lights in a panoramic image to catch the vastness of how far all the buildings and population spreads. What is typically missing from these photos as well as daily lives if you live in a major city is all the light above, the beautiful stars, far more vast and expansive than any cityscape could ever be. Photographer Thierry Cohen latest project “Villes Eteintes” (Darkened Cities) shows some of the world’s most well known skylines unlike we have ever seen them before, completely dark.

Darkened Cities

The concept of this alone is really interesting but when you read about the details and the effort that Thierry went through to create these images it’s remarkable. It would have been hard enough to simply travel to all the locations of the cityscapes and capture them and simply put any random image of the sky with stars behind it but Thierry wanted people to see the actual starry night they are missing due to the light pollution. Thierry would record precisely the location of his city image then travel to a desert or remote area at the exact same latitude as the city to capture the night sky. For example his image of the Hong Kong skyline was paired with the nighttime sky of West Saharan Africa. The resulting images are stunning and will be on exhibit at the Danziger Gallery March 28th through May 4th 2013.

Villes Eteintes (Darkened Cities)

San Francisco 37° 48′ 30″ N 2010-10-9 Lst 20:58. © Thierry Cohen.

San Francisco 37° 48′ 30″ N 2010-10-9 Lst 20:58. © Thierry Cohen.


New York 40° 42′ 16″ N 2010-10-9 Lst 3:40. © Thierry Cohen.

New York 40° 42′ 16″ N 2010-10-9 Lst 3:40. © Thierry Cohen.


Hong Kong 22° 16′ 38″ N 2012-03-22 Lst 14:00. © Thierry Cohen.

Hong Kong 22° 16′ 38″ N 2012-03-22 Lst 14:00. © Thierry Cohen.


More images can be seen at Danziger Gallery

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Ryan is a photographer based out of Orange County interested in all types of Photography focusing on Wedding and Portraiture and a passion for Outdoor and Sports Photography in his free time.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa


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  2. Jen Deitz

    I check the gallery’s website and here is their description of the process:

    “Cohen’s method is original and precise and harkens back to the methodologies employed by early 19th century photographers like Gustave Le Grey. He photographs the world’s major cities, seeking out views that resonate for him and noting the precise time, angle, and latitude and longitude of his exposure. As the world rotates around its axis the stars that would have been visible above a particular city move to deserts, plains, and other places free of light pollution. By noting the precise latitude and angle of his cityscape, Cohen is able to track the earth’s rotation to places of atmospheric clarity like the Mojave, the Sahara, and the Atacama Desert. There he sets up his camera to record what is lost to modern urban dwellers.”

    I’m not sure if this helps to clarify but it’s still a cool concept nevertheless.

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  3. Salah. Sommakia.

    Something is wrong with the explanation here, because no two places can have the same longitude and latitude. My rudimentary understanding of astronomy makes me think that he goes to a location on the same latitude that sees the same sky at a different time point.

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  4. Gip Gippie

    Should have made some while in africa and combine them with some in Europe!

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  5. Jacob M. Ermahgerd

    This is actually false. Long Island and Westchester are both VERY close to NYC so there would still be a ton of light pollution. It’s a bit of an unrealistic example, but interesting nevertheless.

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