When someone mentions New York, yellow cabs, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Times Square are likely what springs to mind.
The bustling heart of the Big Apple attracts millions of tourists every year, who marvel at the skyscrapers and billboards, advertising everything from high-end brands to TV shows.
It’s hard to imagine the busy sidewalks around 42nd Street dark and plain, but that’s exactly what one graphic designer did, by removing all the trademark commercials.
Artist Rinat Rizvanov painstakingly spent 16 hours editing out all the glowing ads from the buildings, revealing how the iconic intersection would look with just its ordinary facades.
Rizvanov shared his masterpiece to TikTok, as he filmed the process on his computer.
“I decided to remove ads and spent 16 hours,” he said in the on-screen caption.
Rizvanov re-posted the video, which he initially shared in January, as he showcased his best work of 2021.
“Is it better with or without ads?” he asked in the original footage, seen more than two million times.
Speaking to NewsweekRizvanov said: “Advertising has many ethical issues, at least it imposes on people what they don’t need. Street ads are an attention theft. So, it evokes negative emotions in most people.
“Perhaps no one will ever see Times Square without advertising, it’s really hard to imagine. I wanted to show an alternative view of this iconic place. And it was a challenge for me, as the work was very voluminous and difficult.
“I have not been to Times Square, and I definitely cannot call it an ordinary street. As I said, this is an iconic place, I would like to visit it.”
As well as removing the adverts, Rizvanov also mocked up a futuristic version, predicting how it might look one day.
The area was transformed during the course of the 20th century, and was initially called Longacre Square.
It started out as the location of William H. Vanderbilt’s American Horse Exchange, according to the official Times Square New York website.
With the advent of electricity, illuminated signs went up, and by 1905 The New York Times tower was built, the second largest in the city at the time.
The area had been renamed Times Square the year before, as the website noted: “In 1905, the first year of operation, the IRT Times Square station serviced almost five million passengers.”
The area became one with seedy shows during the Great Depression, after experiencing a popular surge during the roaring twenties.
The Second World War brought a new look to the area, similar to Rizvanov’s efforts, after advertisements were switched off or dimmed.
The official website wrote: “In May of 1942, Mayor La Guardia announced a dimout. Interior and exterior lighting, in addition to illuminated advertising and building lights, were required to be turned off or directed downward.
“Likewise, the electric news sign belting the Times Tower went dark for the first time since its debut in 1928.”
In the decades following the war the area had a sordid reputation, with prostitution, drugs and crime rife.
But over time as tourism increased, anti-social behavior and businesses were slowly replaced.
“In 2008, the newly designed Duffy Square was re-opened to the public. Times Square has experienced flourishes of creative vibrancy and periods of great depravity, and yet it remains ‘the crossroads of the world.'” the website said.
Correction 12/17/21, 4:08 am ET: This article was updated to correct the spelling of the artist’s name.