Christina Seely’s Spectrograms in Hidden Cities

Building out of her project Lux, for Intralux, SF, exhibiting artist Christina Seely takes the Hidden Cities exhibition namesake into two seemingly opposite directions. Using a series of spectrograms, Seely investigates the visible and invisible in urban light pollution— the artificial glow that emanates from populated areas at night.

In Seely’s NASA Map of the World at Night (SF), points of light scatter the world map as seen from space. The illuminated areas meld into each other, creating large expanses of luminosity, highlighting the human desire for visibility. Although beautiful from far away, one can’t ignore the negative implications involved with light pollution, and notice which areas are the brightest (in her larger project, Lux, Seely photographs the three brightest areas on the map: the United States, Western Europe and Japan).

On the other hand, in an investigation of the hidden, Seely’s spectrogram series analyzes the urban light of iconic San Francisco locations and breaks them down into their respective wave-lengths. Each spectrogram shows a unique pattern of light and color, making visible hidden details of our city’s most prominent locations.

Bay Bridge


Coit Tower


Golden Gate Bridge


Transamerica Pyramid

From far away and up close, Seely draws attention to our urban relationships with light, specifically with man-made light. We are forced to contemplate the consequences of our over-dependence on light and energy. In San Francisco, the message is even louder, as viewers notice the SF Bay Area fully lit up on the NASA Map of the World at Night, just about challenging us to take action.

You may read more about Lux at www.christinaseely.com. In addition, the monograph of Seely’s project will be published this year by Radius Books and The Museum of Contemporary Photography. Lastly, be sure to check out Seely’s photograph of San Francisco (below) on the front cover of San Francisco Magazine for April 2014.

About the writer:
Michelle Lagasca is currently an CCA Connects Extern at SOMArts Cultural Center. She is studying at the California College of the Arts and will graduate in the Spring with a BFA in Illustration.

For more information about internships at SOMArts, please click here.

Photo credits:
NASA Map of the World at Night by Christina Seely, installed in Hidden Cities at SOMArts, photo by Michelle Lagasca; Intralux, SF by Christina Seely, installed in Hidden Cities at SOMArts, photo by Michelle Lagasca; 37.791286, -122.389256, The Bay Bridge, Spectrograph Slide, Christina Seely; 37.802851, -122.405964, Coit Tower, Spectrograph Slide, Christina Seely; 37.808138, -122.476329, Golden Gate Bridge, Spectrograph Slide, Christina Seely; 37.795192, -122.402786, Transamerica Pyramid, Spectrograph Slide, Christina Seely; Lux, Metropolis 37°46′N122°26′W (San Francisco), 2005-2010, Lightjet Print, Christina Seely.