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empire state building endangered animals-NYC-Untapped CitiesAll images via Joel Sartore

From 9pm to midnight this Saturday August 1st, 375-foot images of the world’s most endangered animals will be projected onto the south side of the Empire State Building in the aptly titled, Projecting Change: The Empire State Building. [Update: see the photos from the event here.]

The duo behind the project are Travis Threlkel, co-founder of Obscura Digital, a visuals and graphics firm and Louie Psihoyos, a filmmaker and photographer who directed the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, detailing the hunting of dolphins in Japan. In succession, their forty 20,000-lumen projectors will cast digital images of a snow leopard, a golden lion tamarin and manta rays, along with snakes, birds and various mammals and sea creatures onto a 33-story span of the building from West 31st Street rooftop.

Threlkel explained to The New York Times: We’re going to try to create something beautiful. Not bum people out. Hopefully, this is one big domino. If we can tip it, it would be great.”

empire state building projection-NYC-Untapped Cities

It is not the first time the Empire State Building, one of the most recognizable building in New York City’s vast skyline, has been used to spell out a message for the world to see. Its top lights regularly change to commemorate holidays and important dates (or are turned off all together during migration season). A number ‘2’ was shown at the top of the building when Derek Jeter retired from the Yankees, and the lights were similarly used in a show interpreting works of art shown at the Whitney Museum when it moved downtown to its current location on the Hudson River. Never before, however, has an image of such size and high resolution (the photos are taken by colleagues of Psihoyos of National Geographic), been projected onto such a large portion of the building.

empire state building projection-NYC-Untapped Cities2This banded palm civet from the Cincinnati Zoo is the last of its kind in a North American zoo.

The project was years in the making, everything from conception to securing projection rights from the city, which, given the three years it took to convince the mayor’s office to sign off on the project, is a tedious and frustrating process. New York City has very strict laws governing what can be projected onto buildings. Threlkel and Psihoyos put on a number of smaller projections onto city buildings in the past, but agree that Saturday night’s event is sure to dwarf all of their other efforts. The images will be visible to anyone south of 34th Street Saturday evening.

Next, read about the top 10 secrets of the Empire State Building. Get in touch with the author @jinwoochong

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