Cities of Light

Cities of Light

 

In a new book, AIR, photographer Vincent Laforet is capturing breath-taking aerial views of cities by night. The photographs demonstrate how lighting is transforming our cities.

What is the AIR project?

 

AIR was born out of an assignment in 2014 on psychology and coincidence. I proposed that cities at night looked like brain synapses or computer chips from high altitude. The photos were published online and people seem to have this visceral reaction to them.

Why did you choose to take them at night?

 

I’d been waiting 27 years to take photographs of cities at night. Every time I landed in a new city, I’d see these scenes out of the window and wish I could capture them.

Lighting at night is essential to the series. Cities in the day are a mass of buildings and concrete. At night, you feel this pulse, this energy, coming from these lights as though the city is a living organism. And this comes at an interesting time – most cities are evolving into modern lighting, like the more efficient LED lights.

What does this change in lighting mean for the cities and the photographs?

 

I first shot London in 2008, and it looked utterly lackluster; it was mostly dark, with a bit of tungsten light.

 

But now, with the newer, brighter lights, a lot of which are daylight-balanced, London is full of these incredibly rich blues. You’re seeing a cornucopia of colors – tungsten, sodium vapor, fluorescent green and magenta.

I first shot London in 2008, and it looked utterly lackluster; it was mostly dark, with a bit of tungsten light.

But now, with the newer, brighter lights, a lot of which are daylight-balanced, London is full of these incredibly rich blues. You’re seeing a cornucopia of colors – tungsten, sodium vapor, fluorescent green and magenta.
I first shot London in 2008, and it looked utterly lackluster; it was mostly dark, with a bit of tungsten light.

But now, with the newer, brighter lights, a lot of which are daylight-balanced, London is full of these incredibly rich blues. You’re seeing a cornucopia of colors – tungsten, sodium vapor, fluorescent green and magenta.
I first shot London in 2008, and it looked utterly lackluster; it was mostly dark, with a bit of tungsten light.

But now, with the newer, brighter lights, a lot of which are daylight-balanced, London is full of these incredibly rich blues. You’re seeing a cornucopia of colors – tungsten, sodium vapor, fluorescent green and magenta.
I first shot London in 2008, and it looked utterly lackluster; it was mostly dark, with a bit of tungsten light.

But now, with the newer, brighter lights, a lot of which are daylight-balanced, London is full of these incredibly rich blues. You’re seeing a cornucopia of colors – tungsten, sodium vapor, fluorescent green and magenta.

Is each city different depending on the lighting?

 

Cities like New York and London are very bright in the modern parts. Barcelona has moved some lighting to the new, modern LED lighting, so you can see the history of the city.

In places like L.A., you can see socio-economic divides where richer areas have modern lighting, and poorer areas have older lights. In Berlin, you can differentiate East and West Berlin through the different levels and quality of illumination.

How do these different light sources influence the images you capture?

 

The move to new, energy efficient bulbs has made these images possible. Three or four years ago, you’d fly over a mostly yellow dark, almost depressing city, all gloomy and orange. But this new lighting is much more daylight-balanced and full of life. It gives you energy.

And what about the architecture of a city?

 

Architecture is a big factor. Some buildings, like London’s Gherkin, or the new World Trade Tower, radiate light. Some reflect light, and some architects project light on to the buildings

Was Las Vegas your favourite city to shoot?

 

It’s impossible to pick a favorite. London was the biggest surprise. When I’d flown over before, I’d been unimpressed. But, perhaps because of the Olympics-related modernization, London is now unbelievably impressive at night. Chicago is another one; it’s very vibrant.

What message would you like to convey through these photographs?

 

In this digital world, there’s a weird artificial distance and we forget the world is smaller than we think. We’re all much more connected than we realize, and nowhere is this more apparent than up in the air.

What is light for you?

 

Along with breath, light is life. Light is life and energy. The world wouldn’t turn if it was in darkness, and plants wouldn’t grow.

What does the future hold for AIR?

 

This doesn’t need to end; we can keep going, photographing cities around the world, showing the different types of development and lighting. This project can continue to show us how cities appear at night and how they take on a totally new dimension, which is fascinating.

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