Inhabited: a clear view from the sky
Inhabited is mostly the product of my first road trip 'out back' with my little Mazda 121, my swag and my glider in the boot. It received good feedback and incited me to pursue photography more seriously. From there I launched myself into a PhD by creative work in 2013. For the short intro to the small self-published book I made for Inhabited, see below the gallery.
“Places matter. Their rules, their scale, their design include or exclude civil society, pedestrianism, equality, diversity (economic and otherwise), understanding of where water comes from and garbage goes, consumption or conservation. They map our lives [...] the way we inhabit places also matters, and that comes from experience, imagination, belief, and desire as much as or more than from architecture and design. In other words, the mind and the terrain shape each other: every landscape is a landscape of desire to some degree, if not always for its inhabitants” (Solnit 2007; p.9).
Solnit, R. 2007. Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.
Inhabited: a clear view from the sky
I like to recall my earliest memory: that of my first flight as a newborn, nestled in my mother’s lap, where for the first time I wasn’t immobilised by gravity. With the wind in my face, I looked at the fields and the houses from above and fell asleep, completely at ease. Admittedly I probably don’t truly remember this moment, and it is more that I have a sense of always having been in the air. There is no line in my memory of before and after I could fly, rather I grew up in this way, privileged to be able to say that the sky and air are part of who I am.
With the years, I have realised that I am incapable of fully enjoying the view of a particular landscape until I have interacted with it in some unique way. It seems contradictory that my increasing sense of connection to a place is facilitated by the detached viewpoint of my glider, but it is from this altered viewpoint, using the features of landscape to “play” - that I feel the landscape rather than just witness it. There is a sense of belonging that emerges from this experience, not just to one place in particular but to the whole planet. It is a very hard feeling to put into words, but one that I want to share nonetheless - which these photos allow me to do.
As my collection of images grew, I realised that these images were more than a record of my own experience with a landscape. They are telling of the people that inhabit these landscapes and their interactions with it and, possibly more importantly, they may inform people of their own emotional relationship to different landscapes by pinpointing the feelings that may be triggered by the photo. Some places are sources of comfort whilst others are sources of discomfort.
We may sometimes feel confronted whilst the land looks back up at us saying ‘you don’t recognise me,’ and then, accusingly, ‘you never really knew me’. The abstractedness of aerial landscapes rouses our curiosity and makes us ask “what is it?” and “where is it?” This is not normally how we see our world yet there is something very familiar in the photos. Upon seeing it from this new angle there is a feeling of having been tricked, of previously having been lulled into a state of short-sightedness. How do we fit, how do we feel within the landscape?
The necessities of everyday life make it difficult to take a step back, to see what is happening directly around us despite our proximity, and it is easy to be self-centred and go about our business confident and oblivious. Yet there are moments - when presented with a different perspective - where we can become aware of our vulnerability and the relative insignificance of our daily lives. Our relationship with our environment defines how we use space and resources, yet we rarely question what that relationship is and how it might be different to someone else’s, to another people’s. Taking a look from a different perspective widens our horizons and can put perceptions into context.
I believe that deepening our understanding of the emotions we have towards land and space, and embracing the variety of emotions that exist within a culturally rich society should help us better define how we fit and what it is that we want for our country, our planet, our universe. These are most definitely primordial issues in these challenging social and ecological times.
Enjoy the sight of these aerial landscapes and the emotions that come with it.