Monday, January 28, 2008

a different perspective.

I recently treated myself to one of Edward Tufte's beautiful hardbound books about information design. Envisioning Information is just a visually astounding book in general, but seems to be written specifically for the way that I think about statistics and language. I've only skimmed the books illustrations and diagrams and read the first few chapters, but I can tell this is going to become a standby reference.

In the vein of aerial photography, satellite imagery, and the recent show I had at the Ohio Art League gallery that was themed around mapping... and a wonderful commission of map pendants for a suite of bridesmaids, I've had maps on my mind incessantly for the past month or so.

What is a map but a document of something that is constantly changing? It is so temporal.

I've been playing with Google street recently, and fascinated by the moment in time that was captured as the camera traveled along the streets of San Francisco. This takes mapping to an entirely new level. An intimacy and voyeurism unlike any other type of mapping. People can be seen at several different points in their bike commute to work depending on the speed at which each was traveling. A man hailing a cab. A woman taking her dog for a walk. A street fight. A fire truck on its way to an emergency. Building construction and demolition. Time seems to have paused... at least until new photographs have been made to represent the same location.

Geographic maps and aerial photography however, look at something from far above...erasing the minutiae of reality that can be seen at surface level. Does that make it closer to fiction, or more documentary?

This summer I flew to the Bay area of California, and was fortunate enough to get a window seat on a day with clear skies. I spent most of the flight documenting the landscape across the country from my tiny window. Later this week I'll be making the same flight for the second time, it should be interesting to see how the season change has effected the landscape, and if I can recognize the same landmarks this time. There is something that is magical about flying and traveling thousands of feet above what is so familiar to us. A temporary removal from the minutiae to gain a new perspective...

1 comment:

Megan said...

My dad used to be a helicopter pilot, so I grew up with so many maps lying around the house. I like looking at the satellite shots on Google also. I used to live in an apartment in a barn, and they still have the photos of it on the site, although the barn was demolished about four years ago. It lets me be a little nostalgic.