Photos: The Uneasy Conflict Between Artificial and Natural Light | Science | Smithsonian
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(Kevin Cooley and Bridget Batch)

Photos: The Uneasy Conflict Between Artificial and Natural Light

Artist Kevin Cooley has traveled the world capturing landscapes where one light shines on the horizon

The landscapes tend to be stark, with just a hint of human presence. Los Angeles-based photographer Kevin Cooley has captured such scenes around the world for seven years, using solitary lights amid vast landscapes to convey feelings of unease. “It’s about being lost in the world,” he says, “and being lonely.”

Sometimes Cooley pits natural light against artificial light, as in Iceland (above), where the aurora borealis bears down on a strip of highway illuminated by a nearby tunnel. “I try to find locations that present nature as this very powerful, dangerous, foreboding force that we all have to reckon with,” he says.

Photographing Iceland’s landscape under the North’s constantly-shifting daylight, Cooley says, “makes you very aware of how sensitive we are to light, and how light can change in unexpected ways.” (2008)

Devoe Street refuge

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(Kevin Cooley)

For his series “Take Refuge,” Cooley built a snow fort on Devoe Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and lit an emergency flare inside it. He says he likes the ambiguity of flares “because you don’t know if it’s a distressed situation or just a fire.” (2011)

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