WASHINGTON – Imagine D.C. without cars or people. Imagine the city’s most iconic sites – the Washington Monument, Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill – completely still except for the moving clouds and changing light.
Those alien images were captured over three days by director Ross Ching for his “Empty America” series, a collection of time-lapse videos that show major cities, including D.C., New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle devoid of human life.
Ching got the idea for the project two years ago after coming across a still photo series by Matt Logue, “Empty L.A.” As a commercial and music video director, he wanted to take the concept and turn it into a motion picture. The resulting video went viral, and Ching decided to keep going with the series.
Time-lapse filmmaking can be daunting, Ching says. Multiple exposures of the same image are taken over time so that the background always stays the same. It’s the people and cars that keep moving. Those photos are then layered over each other again and again until it creates an empty space.
“The main thing is that people really find connection with things they recognize in situations they don’t recognize, which is why time-lapse is so popular,” he says. “You’re seeing something you recognize, but it’s this weird different situation that you’re not very familiar with.”
But there’s nothing sinister or apocalyptic about Ching’s videos. Instead, they show something residents and tourists rarely experience: a city at peace with itself, its most beautiful aspects on full display without the distractions of noise, pollution or the impatience of its people.
Ching hadn’t visited D.C. since he was kid, and his time spent photographing the nation’s capital gave him a new appreciation for the city.
“To see these things that you look at on TV almost every day, to actually see them in real life and especially being older, I can appreciate them now,” he says.