Long-exposure shots in St Petersburg, Russia turn people into ghosts

Alexey Titarenko's "City of Shadows" is a series of haunting, gorgeous long-exposure shots of street-scenes in St Petersburg, Russia. The long exposure-times turn the people in the shots into ghosts and suggestions of motion. Link (Thanks, Marilyn!)


  1. I like the two fellows by the tree, staying in place long enough to be resolved.

  2. Architectural photos use long exposure to remove moving object (people, cars, puppies,etc) and make structures appear unobscured. Occasionally you can see faint traces of the figures. Why in this photo are the people not fainter or the buildings darker? Photochopped?

  3. This is eerily reminiscent of those lines in THe Wasteland where the crowd of dead flow over London Bridge.

    Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
    A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
    I had not thought death had undone so many.

  4. I believe that Latente is correct, especially as his (very nice) photos have the identical effect.

    Alternatively, it’s a long exposure which is a) not very long (so everyone isn’t rendered invisible, and b) affected by the way people don’t move smoothly up steps, but rather one step at a time, so we can see their feet motionless on the steps, their heads almost motionless, and in between we see just a blur.

    Anyway, very nice depiction of the huddled masses.

  5. I have been a photographer since 1975 (yes, older folks read “boingboing” too!), and really enjoyed this post. I only have a handful of long exposure shots, but they are not online. And they are not as cool as these. And Latente, I’ve posted your link on our site so others can see your fine work, as well. Thank you!

  6. These photographs are really quite beautiful.

    I can’t help but to think about the experience that different people from different parts of the world have when viewing this work.

    I wonder if the work looks less eerie to those who were born and raised in these urban soviet landscapes.

    Perhaps to a tropical islander this work is so beyond the norm that it is a shock to ponder.

    Good stuff.

  7. The photo is beautiful, but creepy. I feel like those people could swarm out of the picture and start wailing at me. “ooooooh.”

    “Shivers and turns on some happy music.”

  8. i found these profound and shocking. the closest thing i can think of is marey’s chronophotographs, but many times more dirty and ghostly. truly extraordinary.

  9. Interestingly, some of the very first photographs (taken with pinhole cameras) had to be long exposures. All the people (and carriages and horses) disappear except for one guy getting his shoe shined, who stayed in one place for long enough.

    It’s neat how, as people move, their shoes (and hands on a hand-rail) stay still for most of the time, and then quickly hop from one spot to the other, looking fairly clear. I have taken pictures like this at dance halls, and they look like a bunch of disembodied feet with a misty/smokey/ghostly cloud over them. Pretty freaky. One of my favorites was taken during a traveling waltz, so the whole room swirls in a big spiral. [Shameless self-promotion]

  10. I think this is what we really look like in a “universe as a big holographic crystal” sense.

  11. “From that foggy tangle that crept silently across the square there shot, now and then, the fleeting phantom of a hand, the impression of what might have been a face, forms of prosaically-attired anatomy to be glimpsed as of a distant memory…”

  12. Net,

    No signature line and no link to your blog, please. You can put your URL on your profile page and your name is already above the comment. In-thread links are only for things specifically related to the post (or discussion).

  13. I think Latente and SamSam are right that this one’s a multiple exposure – you can, for example, see what is clearly one person’s hand in different positions moving up the rail. Also, a single long exposure wouldn’t usually behave in quite this way: too much stuff in the image from people’s movement, which I doubt would show up if it were just one shot.

    Airshowfan (and Cory) have it right, too, though: if it was merely multiple exposures, you wouldn’t get the flow of people effect – the hands wouldn’t be the only thing that would stay still, everything would.

    So, I posit that it was made with multiple (I think 2) long exposures (of at least 5 seconds), and that everyone wins. I’m definitely going to have to try this myself, ideally with a large format camera in a busy place. Great post.

  14. The comment about Stalin turning people into ghosts is a good point. But there are other ghosts in St. Petersburg, like Dostoevsky’s. You can trace Raskolnikov’s footsteps if you know where to look.

  15. @22- not to mention the thousands of people who died actually building the city under Peter the Great. According to my Russian friends, SPB is built on a graveyard- another reason not to drink the water!

  16. Multiple, slow exposures have been used to accomplish this effect.

    If you look at the lead image posted on BB you will see the same running shoe clearly resolved on several steps. It appears approximately 6 times as the person climbs the stairs during several slow, blurred exposures.

    Simple technique, random outcome.


  17. In defense of Russian art:

    Dear Latente,

    Why can French people never just give a Russian credit, and instead point to the beauty of the louvre. These photographs are much more beautiful than anything in the louvre, much less a long exposure of the louvre itself. These shadowed ghosts are hauntingly beautiful, whether they are taken as a long or a multiple exposure. It does not matter what method is used here, as the images are sufficiently strong. They startle one, as great art should. They suggest something deeper about man, that perhaps existence is a ghost, or that we are lucky if even a ghost is left behind when we are gone. I have never seen a photograph that matches the power of these, and your photos of the louvre do not have the evocative power of these images, which touch me to the very soul, as only Russian art can. They touch closer, because the very subject seems to be the viewer.

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