Book tip: Protege Noctem

June 13, 2023

Moths, bats and, above all, human beings are the victims of the constant increase in light pollution. This exciting book by Mattia Balsamini reports on the dramatic consequences of the loss of darkness.
Let’s protect darkness! This is the pointed message behind the Italian photographer’s project: the photobook Protege Noctem, which he worked on in collaboration with author Raffaele Panizza. One of the achievements of the cities of today has been the introduction of street lighting. Combined with neon signs, shops windows and traffic, street lighting produces an attractive atmosphere and a sense of security for modern day citizens. This blessing, however, has quickly transformed into a curse that makes it hard to find the darkness of night time. This has grave consequences for people, as well as for flora and fauna.

Because of the glow of millions of artificial lights, the night sky now resembles a “dirty screen,” claim the authors of the book, who have been researching the consequences of light pollution for two years. At the same time, they have learnt about the research facilities and concrete proposals being made to solve the issue and improve the night-time light situation. In most cities, you are no longer able to recognise the stars; around 83% of people living in cities have never seen the Milky Way. In Shanghai, for instance, 95% of the stars are invisible to the naked eye, yet the largest astronomy museum in the world was recently opened there. Too much lighting at night disturbs the global ecosystem. Moths, for example, spend hours flitting around light sources and die of exhaustion. They no longer mate, nor are they involved in flower pollination. Plants exposed to constant light also lose their sense of the seasons; migrating birds fail to find their way, and whole species are threatened by extinction. People also need the change from day to night, the interplay between wakefulness and sleep: illnesses such as cancer, diabetes or depression can result from this system falling out of balance.

The photographer’s picture series goes way beyond simple documentation, granting the subject matter a unique artistic dimension. The consequences of apocalyptic scenarios are revealed in a visual parcourse. The image sequences are delightfully dynamic and varied, and, combined with the texts, they direct and lead the viewer to new understanding. Concrete examples clearly reveal the importance of humanity becoming involved in changing the situation. Replacing lamps and installing lighting free of blue light emissions can help to counter the disappearance of night time and its creatures. We should start by freeing ourselves from the fear of darkness. This exciting photo book represents a contribution towards a change in our way of thinking.
Ulrich Rüter
All images on this page: © Mattia Balsamini

Mattia Balsamini: Protege Noctem (If darkness disappeared)+-

Bildschirmfoto 2023-11-15 um 15.37.01

Essays by Raffaele Panizza
200 pages, 100 black and white and colour pictures, 21 × 28.5 cm, English
Witty Books
Design: Multi Form


Book tip: Protege Noctem