16 February 2009

The world from 50 feet up

A photo is worth a thousand words, they say, but until I recently ran across the images created by George Steinmetz, I didn't know how many words could be avoided if we could just see things from 50 feet up. Steinmetz is a photographic daredevil, strapping a giant fan and a parachute to his back, and steering this contraption over desolate beautiful landscapes and cultivated areas alike. (Here's an image of him soaring over elephants wading through a wetland.)

Apparently this contraption is called a fan paraglider, and an article in Smithsonian Magazine details some of the joys and hazards of doing your photography while simultaneously piloting such a device in remote areas.

So stop what you're doing right now and go get a paraglider to document your own neighborhood. Or for the saner among you, go to Steinmetz's website and buy a poster, or a print, or a copy of his book African Air. Here's a blurb on the book.

African Air is a compilation of pictures from ten years of flying over Africa, mostly with a motorized paraglider. This foot-launched ultra light is the slowest and lightest powered aircraft in the world and allows George to capture intimate aerial views of places that have never been seen from above. African Air covers the continent’s most breathtaking landscapes, from migrating herds of zebras and elephants to infinite miles of desert, including densely packed urban centers and small, remote villages. The book has a 7,000 word personal introduction that begins in 1979 when George got the idea for this book while hitchhiking through 17 African countries. There are also seven shorter essays covering experiences from aerial fieldwork.

George Steinmetz -- SoundRoots' #1 global photographic hero.

By the way, that orange figure in the center of the above photo is a woman, working in salt-drying pools in the village of Teguidda-n-Tessoumt in arid northern Niger.
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