Silent World

I’m not going to claim to understand the process by which French duo Lucie & Simon captured these images of cities like Paris, Bejing, and New York without people (save for a single figure). It involves using a “neutral density filter that allows for extra-long exposures, which removes moving objects like people and cars.” How that works or what a “neutral density filter” is, I really cannot say, however, the images produced speak for themselves (and are of much higher resolution on their site.)

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I lived in New York for a short time, years ago, and the effect of seeing it this empty is really stunning. The only time it ever came close to this when I was there was early in the morning, on my walk to work at 5:30 or so, and even then, it depended on the neighborhood I was walking through at the time and there were always a few cars. It’s eerie to see it looking so quiet.


5 Responses to “Silent World”

  1. S Says:

    “neutral density”?
    ehh, way to invent BS terms
    1.take a long video clip
    2.then take a median for every pixel of the full length of the video
    it’s highly likely that the most common pixel color in a video is the background
    3.invent a fancy term for it

    great pictures though

  2. M.S. Patterson Says:

    A neutral density filter is a standard piece of photographic equipment. It’s usually used to bring the brightness of a scene to within a range that film can handle nicely (without over/underexposing), or to allow the use of a particular aperture range or shutter speed (often limits imposed by the camera in question). They make graduated filters as well, to allow one to darken the sky/ground selectively during exposure. Density filters are invaluable to cinematographers working on location, and give them back creative control.

    This is a very clever and novel application of a very old tool.

    I love it when people criticize artists without knowing what they’re talking about. I’ve noticed it occurring around here or on the Haus facebook with annoyingly increasing frequency.

  3. Karen Says:

    Beautiful photos and I love that technique despite not using it for quite a while. I loved using a neutral density filter while shooting running water to give it a smooth and unctuous feeling. Now seeing this photos I remember a picture in my filter book showing how you could use them to make cars disappear while photographing a highway.

  4. fiona Says:

    I guess for someone like me who’s never seen any of these places or actually ever been in a really massive city at all, these don’t seem so strange and the effect is lost/wasted on me :( Rather than eerie, it just feels like it must be a Sunday morning or that all the people must be a few streets over, doing something else
    Doesn’t help that these kind of places are often cleared of people and traffic in the movies etc that I see them in. Some of them feel set up for a grand finale face-off gunfight hehe

  5. Daniel Says:

    Yes, put even simpler: Take a photo and leave the shutter open so long (like an hour) that moving things don’t just blur, they become invisible. Since even one second can be long enough to bleach out a photo, you put a plate of very dark glass over the front so that the film/sensor exposes very slowly.

    It’s the same technique, in principle, as what S described, except it can produce sharper pictures, and we’ve been able to do it since before video was invented, or S’s parents were born. And the “neutral” part is very important. As anyone who’s gone shopping for sunglasses can tell you, it’s really hard to get glass that makes things darker, without colouring or changing your view in any other way.