What NYC and Beijing Would Look Like, Without All The People

Like a lot of New Yorkers who grouse about crowds and stare down tourists barricading the sidewalk with their shopping bags, and I guess like Cameron Crowe, too, I fantasize about what the city would be like if everyone just momentarily disappeared. Here to offer a taste are Paris-based photographers Lucie & Simon. In Silent World, the pair visualizes some of the busiest, most famous public places in the world, including Times Square and Grand Central, almost completely devoid of people.

“In the Silent World project, we wanted to study and transform our world’s most symbolic metropolises (New York, Beijing, Paris, Rome) into imaginary, fictional, impossible places,” the photographers say. So there’s the Champs-Élysées stripped of its endless stream of cars and Radio City Music Hall with crowd-control gates but, eerily, no crowds to control.

Lucie & Simon created the photographs by first taking a long-exposure picture. That has the effect of erasing cars, people, and anything else that moves. Then they mixed together details of the long-exposure shot and those of standard fraction-of-a-second photographs to make a composite that resembles “a frozen moment stolen from an imaginary world,” they say.

An imaginary world that is not totally post-human, mind you. Lucie & Simon usually include at least one person in the frame–a Little Red Riding Hood look-alike next to Madison Square Garden say, or a frightened older woman in front of Rockefeller Plaza. I’m guessing these people are supposed to lend the compositions an air of mystery. And I suppose they do. Personally, though, I’m just jealous they get New York all to themselves.

[Images courtesy of Lucie & Simon]SL