An artist turns Google earth views into mesmerizing maps.

By now, the novelty of the aerial view has long warn off (remember when Google Earth blew all of our minds?). Detailed images of our surroundings, captured by satellites orbiting out of sight, are all but commonplace these days. And though few of us have had the privilege of contemplating a place from such a lofty position, we have come to accept these abstract digital images as among the most accurate depictions of our environment.

But with this privileged distance, this ability to think we see all the pieces of the terrestrial puzzle, comes an equally great psychological distance from any real sense of place. Irish photographer David Thomas Smith ponders what has been lost since we have begun conflating satellite imagery with reality. In his Anthropocene series, Smith takes aerial landscapes of industrial sites and sites of voracious development and rearranges them into kaleidoscopic patterns. Though we’ve seen this trick before, Smith’s images are individual in their deliberate evocation of Persian rugs. As Alison Zavos wrote on Featureshoot, “Thousands of seemingly insignificant coded pieces of information are sewn together like knots in a rug to reveal a grander spectacle."

Las Vegas, Nevada

The rationale behind Smith’s work derives in part from the traditional craft of Afghani rug weavers, who notably used textiles to record and comprehend their experiences of a turbulent, war-torn homeland in more vivid, literal imagery. In a way, Smith’s psychedelic tableaus remove the viewer from reality by distorting satellite photos into abstract, illegible patterns. But at the same time, Smith’s synthetic multiplication of sites like Las Vegas, Silicon Valley, Dubai, and Beijing bring attention to the frightening pace of development that often escapes us today.

Delta Coal Port, Vancouver, Canada
Las Norias de Daza, Almeria, Spain
Three Mile Island Generating Station, Middletown, PA.

This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Maps

    Your Maps of Life Under Lockdown

    Stressful commutes, unexpected routines, and emergent wildlife appear in your homemade maps of life during the coronavirus pandemic.

  2. photo: The Pan-Am Worldport at JFK International Airport, built in 1960,
    Design

    Why Airports Die

    Expensive to build, hard to adapt to other uses, and now facing massive pandemic-related challenges, airport terminals often live short, difficult lives.

  3. Maps

    Visualizing the Hidden ‘Logic’ of Cities

    Some cities’ roads follow regimented grids. Others twist and turn. See it all on one chart.

  4. photo: Social-distancing stickers help elevator passengers at an IKEA store in Berlin.
    Transportation

    Elevators Changed Cities. Will Coronavirus Change Elevators?

    Fear of crowds in small spaces in the pandemic is spurring new norms and technological changes for the people-moving machines that make skyscrapers possible.

  5. Life

    When the Cruise Ships Stop Coming

    As coronavirus puts the cruise industry on hold, some popular ports are rethinking their relationship with the tourists and economic benefits the big ships bring.

×