Scene4 Magazine | Projecting Change On New York's Iconic Empire State Building | September 2015

Griselda Steiner

At a time when man’s relationship to wildlife is highlighted by the senseless killing of the beloved lion, Cecil, in Zimbabwe with a bow and arrow by an American dentist emboldened with a passé Hemingway trophy hunter mentality, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Louie Psyihoyos and Travis Threlkel, founder of Obscura Digital, projected images of animals facing extinction on the southern façade of the Empire State building in a spectacular light show on Saturday August 1st from 9 to 12 pm.


The event featured looped images of endangered species onto 33 floors of the building and was meant to draw attention to the creatures’ plight. Using 40 stacked projectors, 20,000-lumen each, from the roof of a building on West 31st Street, Louie and Travis projected 15-minute video feeds of still and moving animal pictures including Cecil the lion, a snow leopard, Orca whales, frogs, manta rays, snakes, elephants, birds, sea creatures and a giant gorilla that climbed up the side like King Kong. Louie hopes this display will inspire activism before the upcoming theatrical release of his film  “Racing Extinction” that will premiere to an international audience on the Discovery Channel, December 2nd, 2015.



Viewing the building from my apartment window which is several blocks below 14th Street, I could see the Empire’s tower in a vivid light-dance of blues, oranges, purple, reds and shimmering white, but the animals were obscured from the distance in leafy-tree tops and daunted by the rise of a large moon that seemed to smile in the night sky. As a New Yorker, it felt special that Louie had again chosen our urban space and received the support of Empire State Realty Trust to bring his wild images to the city’s concrete canyons.


“Projecting Change: The Empire State Building” was the second large-scale event Louie Psyihoyos orchestrated in Manhattan in his environmental campaign. His “illUmiNations Protecting our Planet” video projection of endangered animals that covered the east-facing façade of the UN Headquarters culminated New York’s Climate March on the night of September 23rd, 2014. At that time Louie said, “Our generation must illuminate and take action around truth for the sake of future generations.”


Well known for his 2010 Oscar winning documentary “The Cove”, that recorded the brutal slaughter of dolphins in the bay of Taiji-Wakayama on the southeast coast of Japan, Louie’s non-profit foundation The Oceanic Preservation Society has been instrumental in its mission to raise awareness of environmental disaster. Their work resulted in making incremental improvements in reducing dolphin slaughter, inspiring protest against Sea World Corporation’s exploitation of sea mammals and shedding light on illegal poaching and wildlife trade.




In his new documentary, “Racing Extinction” Louie and his team used covert tactics to complete a worldwide journey of discovery that explores the hidden world of animal extinction and black market commerce. His background that includes 17 years as an award-winning nature photographer for National Geographic and writing the book “Hunting Dinosaurs”, led to his dedication to filming eco-thrillers to inspire action. His partnership with artists, scientists, conservationists and cutting-edge technicians earned him a reputation as an environmental visionary.


Louie has stated that we are entering the last age of animal extinction, “It’s my estimation that half of the species on the planet could disappear by the end of this century. But not if we can help it. I consider a film to be a weapon of ‘Mass Construction’.”


I believe that contemporary man’s tragic and often naïve view of wildlife, as well as the destruction caused by global warming, have led to many recent human and animal deaths and mishaps. Encouraged by the tourist trade in impoverished countries as well as a pasteurized view of wildlife in our own national parks, many people have taken unnecessary risks in encountering wild animals they consider “cute” attractions on exotic landscapes. In the United States deadly shark attacks hit near the shore on local beaches in South Carolina, many Bison have charged tourists in Yellowstone Park, forest hikers have become bear-kill and 1179coyotecoyotes are seen roaming the streets in upstate New York. Wild animals are imbued with original instructions to attack and kill intruders in their territory and those they feel threaten their young. On the other hand, animals that have come to trust people like Cecil or who have been domesticated and drugged become easy prey.


Because of decreasing natural habitat and food sources they often wander into human environments worldwide posing risks to themselves and people.While man has lost his awe of nature in our ever expanding access to views of the earth and cosmos, nature has in turn delivered more devastating blows. Now disillusioned in our false sense of security in facing the forces of nature and even making well-intentioned attempts to amend our mistakes, we can be assured that although we mourn the damage we have done to our ecosystem, Mama Nature – ever adept at correcting  imbalances – will surely deliver a big blow when and where we least expect it.


Links -


YouTube "Racing Extinction'' Trailer


YouTube "Projecting Change"

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Griselda Steiner is a poet, dramatist and a freelance writer and Senior Writer for Scene4.
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©2015 Griselda Steiner
©2015 Publication Scene4 Magazine




September 2015

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