Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring forward

Flying Pictures by Daniel Gordon

I came across Daniel Gordon's "Flying Pictures" in a recent edition of National Geographic.  The images are striking for obvious reasons; a human being flying, temporarily suspended in midair with arms and legs outstretched, over an overwhelming space like a Californian cliff or snow covered hill.  Is he Superman? No.  Was he hung there through the magic of digital editing? Wrong too.  The figure in the photos is the artist himself, and he is really, actually flying - momentarily.  Here's how he described his process in the article: 

To fly, I always worked with a friend.  I'd find a location, set up my large-format camera on a tripod, and compose the landscape, making a Polaroid of the setting to figure out where I wanted to appear in it.  Next I'd walk up to the horizon line of the landscape.  My friend would shout to me when I'd reached the place I'd chosen on the Polaroid.  Then I'd get a running start and just jump forward, up, and out into the air.  My friend would snap the shutter.  I'd do this over and over, making one photograph per jump.  Of course I'd come crashing to the ground over and over too.  

Yikes, that must have been painful.  But the resulting images are  startling, evocative.  The amount of space devoted to the landscape in most of "Flying Pictures" shows a real enchantment with the natural world.  In some of the pictures, Gordon is just a tiny, airborne speck in the distance, like a bird.  His attempts to fly also communicate something aspirational that we all feel; a yearning to defy our limitations.  Here are some of my favorites:




At the end of the article, the artist reminds us of the unseen accompaniment to the soaring moments captured. "The photographs in this project may show an instant's victory over gravity," he writes, "But in the end, I always crashed back to Earth." 

All images shown here were taken from Daniel Gordon's website

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