Aerial View

The desire to use aerial technology as a “seeing device” dates back almost to the invention of flight itself. While Leonardo developed his ornithopter, a mechanical imitation of the bird’s vision and locomotion, later inventors made use of the camera in order to read the landscape from above. Whether for reconnaissance, weather forecasting, or leisure, a certain pleasure was derived from this omnipotent and all-knowing view. These 35mm photographs explore vision and perception from above—at the top of a skyscraper, and across the wings and ailerons of a long-haul airplane.

How, if at all, does our perception change with elevation? Do we become voyeurs? Was the project of aerial view, from the very beginning, a modernist aspiration?








One comment

  1. William Popov · March 31, 2016

    These are some great shots Yusef. You pose some interesting questions, but I’d like to add a more rationalistic perspective as well. I think it’s important to note that there is likely a biological/evolutionary component to our (and other animals) taking pleasure in aerial views. For our distant ancestors (both after and before the evolution of Homo sapiens), a commanding view of one’s surroundings would be immensely advantageous in terms of survival, allowing one to see predators, prey, and environmental conditions, all knowledge that for early humans or other mammals could mean the difference between life and death. So next time any of us is enjoying the view from our airplane window or the observation deck at the Prudential Center, consider that there’s probably a good reason we enjoy such vistas.


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