New York city

This is What the World Looks Like Under Quarantine

The New York Times’ epic photo project shows an empty world

New York city

Have you ever tried to imagine how Times Square would look like if it were deserted? Paris’s Trocadéro? Rome’s Spanish steps? Florida’s beaches? What seemed like an unfathomable thought just a month ago has now become our reality. 

From Sao Paulo to Sydney and New Delhi, Tokyo to Beijing, cities across the world have turned into ghost towns because of Coronavirus—the once-in-a-century pandemic that is threatening both our health and economies.

Street photographers have traditionally looked for chaos in street-life. But right now, it is the unexpected serenity of desolation that they are looking towards.

Commissioned by The New York Times, a myriad of international photographers have shot breath-taking scenes of silence, in spots habitually known for their buzzing tumult. Although the pictures seem off at first; they’re somewhat philosophical in their peaceful resonance. 

Could this void we are suddenly confronted with be the wake up call we all needed? For years, capitalism has taught us that we must constantly do more, want more— that we must constantly accelerate. But this idea has caused more harm than good. In the pursuit of constant growth and capital, societies are scarifying lives and destroying Earth.

New data has recently confirmed that lockdowns in Europe are improving the air quality. And for those stuck at home, it seems like many are relearning the value of time spent with family and redefining what success should really mean to them. 

Could emptiness be what makes our lives more fulfilled? Maybe. For now, take a look at these surreal photos of the world’s deserted cities during quarantine.


ParisAndrea Mantovani for The New York Times


TehranArash Khamooshi for The New York Times


IndonesiaUlet Ifansasti for The New York Times

New York

New York cityTodd Heisler for The New York Times

Hong Kong

Hong KongLam Yik Fei for The New York Times


TokyoNoriko Hayashi for The New York Times

New Delhi

New DelhiSaumya Khandelwal for The New York Times


RomeAlessandro Penso for The New York Times

Los Angeles

Los AngelesPhilip Cheung for The New York Times


BarcelonaMaria Contreras Coll for The New York Times

Share this article

Related stories