Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘aerial’

15 FEBRUARY, 2011

The Day After Tomorrow: Our Aerial Future


What Spanish ponds have to do with Canadian tissues and Georgia O’Keefe.

We love aerial photography — there’s something about a bird’s-eye view that puts this Earth, and our place in it, in perspective. Nowhere is this more poignant and gripping than when it opens our eyes to the concrete scale and magnitude of something we hold as abstract guilt in our collective conscience: The environmental impact of human activity and consumer culture. That’s precisely what photographer J. Henry Fair explores in his compelling new book, The Day After Tomorrow: Images of Our Earth in Crisis — a rousing invitation to bear witness to the environmental devastation we continue to inflict on our own home, and a visceral call to arms to take responsibility and change our ways.

Fair does a remarkable job of reconciling the book’s powerful artistic vision with the near-investigative feel of the work as it turns a lens on the industries most vital to post-industrial society — oil, fertilizer, coal, factory farming — and unearths their dirty not-so-little secrets.

It is first and foremost an art book, the pictures compelling in the manner of painters like O’Keefe, Giacometti, and Caspar David Friedrich. But it’s also a book about the power that the consumer has to shape the world through the purchase decisions she makes.” ~ J. Henry Fair

Crime and Punishment, Gulf of Mexico, 2010 | Oil from BP Deepwater Horizon spill on the Gulf of Mexico | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Herbicide, Luling, LA, 2010 | Herbicide manufacturing plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Crucible, Convent, LA, 2005 | Heavy metal waste, resulting from fertilizer production | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Lightning Rods, Fort McMurrary, Alberta, Canada, 2009 | The inside of a holding tank at an oil sands upgrader facility | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Dendrite, Rio Tinto, Spain, 2008 | Run-off pond at Rio Tinto mine | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Gangrene, Luling, LA, 2010 | Herbicide manufacturing plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Facial Tissues, Terrace Bay, Ontario, Canada, 2005 | Paper pulp waste, resulting from facial tissue manufacture | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Bottom Ash, New Roads, LA, 2010 | Bottom ash disposal pond at coal-fired power plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Phospho-Gypsum, Geismar, LA, 2005 | Phospho-gypsum waste at a fertilizer manufacturing plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Images via Flavorpill

As an artist with a message, one asks oneself: how do I translate my message to my medium such that it will effect the change I want? At first, I photographed ‘ugly’ things; which is, in essence, throwing the issue in people’s faces. Over time, I began to photograph all these things with an eye to making them both beautiful and frightening simultaneously, a seemingly irreconcilable mission, but actually quite achievable given the subject matter.” ~ J. Henry Fair

Provocative and breathtaking, The Day After Tomorrow is out today and won’t disappoint.

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24 SEPTEMBER, 2010

Through the Eyes of the Vikings: The Aerial Arctic


From fjords to humpbacks, or what 11th-century nostalgia has to do with polar bears.

We’re big fans of aerial photography and it hardly gets any better than that of National Geographic photographer Robert B. Haas.

After stunning the world with Through the Eyes of the Gods: An Aerial Vision of Africa in 2005 and Through The Eyes Of The Condor: An Aerial Vision of Latin America in 2007, Haas is now back with his coolest project yet, literally: Through the Eyes of the Vikings: An Aerial Vision of Arctic Lands — an ambitious and visually gripping exploration of the Arctic.

Bay of Bothnia, Sweden

Recycling pools beside a lumber facility near the port city of Karlsborg pock the landscape like shots through tempered glass.

Langøya Island, Norway

Industrial byproducts form a swirling palette at a waste-treatment facility on this island south of Oslo.

Manitoba, Canada

A polar bear pauses on a bed of kelp on Cape Churchill.

Lynn Canal, Alaska

Tributaries of the spectacularly deep fjord wind across a muddy plain to empty into a blue-green bay.

Whether in myth or in fact, the Vikings call to mind a hardy and adventurous spirit of exploration and enterprise. The cool stare of a Viking in the slit beneath fur-lined headgear and above a craggy length of beard betrayed a willingness to face risk, eyeball-to-eyeball, to witness sights that others had not seen before and capture bounty that might one day become the stuff of legend.” ~ Robert Haas in the book’s introduction

Clam Gulch, Alaska

A clam digger pokes around Cook Inlet.

Kiruna, Sweden

Snowmobile tracks crisscross the surface of a melting pond.

Red Glacier, Alaska

Bergs and boulders form islands of ice and rock in the basin of the glacier.

What makes the book particularly captivating is the subtle bittersweet undertone of reconciling the breathtaking romance of the Arctic with our lurking awareness of its slow demise in the grip of climate change, with a breath of irony as we come to realize these magnificent landscapes are already dramatically different from what the Vikings saw centuries ago.

Iniskin Bay, Alaska

The Iniskin River resembles a reflective ribbon of glass as it flows into its namesake bay.

Disko Bay, Greenland

Mother and calf humpback whales breach the electric-blue surface on the west coast of Greenland.

Like an ephemeral memento, Through the Eyes of the Vikings hangs in our collective conscience with equal parts retrograde nostalgia and alive appreciation, encapsulating a moment in time and space slowly severed from existence by the axe of an invisible Viking.

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29 APRIL, 2010

Photographer Jason Hawkes’ London At Night


The view from cloudy skies, or why the financial district is blingier than you thought.

It’s no secret we’re totally obsessed with aerial photography. But while most of the genre focuses on nature’s most magnificent landscapes and man’s most monumental industrial spaces, a breathtaking birdseye view of urbanity’s living fabric — metropolitan cities — is something of a rarity. Which is why we’re completely swept away by photographer Jason Hawkes’ new book, London At Night — a remarkable anthology of images

London's financial district

© Jason Hawkes

While the series is available on Hawkes’ website (which also features similar images of New York), there’s something quite powerful about the physicality to the book that ads to the lushness and vibrant glamor of the images.

Waterloo and Eurostar terminal

© Jason Hawkes


© Jason Hawkes

Shooting aerial photography during the daytime had its own difficulties, you are strapped tightly into a harness leaning out of the helicopter, shouting directions through the headsets to the pilot. If shooting in the day can be difficult, night and the lack of light causes its own set of problems, but overcoming them is half the fun and the results can be stunning.” ~ Jason Hawkes for

A classic London roundabout

© Jason Hawkes

While the light porn does make us worry about London’s carbon footprint, we have admit the exuberant urban whimsy of Hawkes’ photographs makes make it oh-so-easy to surrender to the beauty and forget the ecology of it.

Motorway junction

© Jason Hawkes

Whether you’re a born-and-raised Londoner or someone who’s always admired the grand city from a distance, grab a copy of London At Night to experience one of humanity’s most iconic urban epicenters on a whole new level — literally.

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16 OCTOBER, 2009

Experimental Cartography: The Map as Art


What tattoo art has to do with fashion, vintage atlases and Nazi concentration camps.

We’ve always been fascinated by maps — through various elements of design, from typography to color theory to data visualization, they brilliantly condense and capture complex notions about space, scale, topography, politics and more. But where things get most interesting is that elusive intersection of the traditional and the experimental, where artists explore the map medium as a conceptual tool of abstract representation. And that’s exactly what The Map of the Art, a fantastic Morning News piece by Katharine Harmon, examines.

Matthew Cusick, 'Fiona’s Wave,' 2005

Cusick's oversized collages are painted with fragments of vintage atlases and school geography books from the golden era of cartography, 1872-1945.

Corriette Schoenaerts, 'Europe,' 2005

Schoenaerts, a conceptual photographer living in Amsterdam, constructs countries and continents out of clothing.

(You may recall Schoenaerts from our Geography, Topography, and Everythingography issue.)

Arie A. Galles, 'Station One: Auschwitz-Birkenau,' 1998

A grim allusion to Nazi concentration camps, these drawings, based on Luftwaffe and Allied aerial reconnaissance film, were made over the course of a decade.

Qin Ga, 'Site 22: Mao Zedong Temple,' 2005

In 2002, China's Long March Project embarked upon a 'Walking Visual Display' along the route of the 1934-1936 historic 6000-mile Long March, and Beijing-based artist Qin kept tracked the group’s route in a tattooed map on his back. Three years later, Qin continued the trek where the original marchers had left off, accompanied by a camera crew and a tattoo artist, who continually updated the map on Qin’s back.

Paula Scher: The World, 1998

Paula Scher: Africa, 2003

These maps come from Harmon’s The Map As Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography — a remarkable collection of 360 colorful, map-related visions of experimental cartography by well-known artists and design thinkers like Olafur Eliasson (remember him?), Maira Kalman (another TEDster), Paula Scher (and yet another), and Julian Schnabel, as well as more underground creatives whose art is greatly inspired by maps. The book also features essays by Gayle Clemans, introducing a richer layer of insight into the work of some of these map artists.

Be sure to read Harmon’s excellent essay below the Morning News images, which offers a fascinating look at the historical relationship between maps and the art movement, both products of the shifting political and aesthetic influences of the time.

via Coudal

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