12-14 JUNE 2013


Authors: Deniz Hasırcı & Özge Deniz Özker

Aerial Abstractions: The Analysis of Aerial Photographs as a Visual Art Form      



This study analyzes aerial photographs as a visual art form and the role of abstraction in the understanding of aerial photographs. There is a significant amount of literature on the technical aspects of aerial photography and the importance of aerial views in specific fields such as mapping, archaeology, anthropological field research or military. Although this is the case, it is difficult to find sources that deal with it from the artistic point of view or adopt a cultural perspective. Abstraction can be defined as a special artistic representation where particulars are gone and what remains are the essentials. Basic features of natural figures and shapes are shown in a simple way without their details through abstraction. There can be many abstraction levels, but it can be stated that, when there is visual simplification, there is some level of abstraction. Photographs taken from the air create a distance that necessitates the onlooker to adopt a more aesthetic and abstract perspective. As the distance grows further, even if there is a tragedy down below, the subject matter is viewed through a window of abstraction, with the artistic qualities gaining significance over understanding of the content. Through the aerial photograph, what the camera lens sees is artistic and has a communication of its own. Although, the communication is artistic, there is no intervention by the human hand. In this study, first, the sociological and mythological aspects of looking from above, the history of aerial photography, and the use of aerial photography in different fields are investigated. This is followed by a discussion on aerial abstractions, and possible reasons behind the abstraction applied by the onlooker. These reasons mostly depend on the technique, distance, framing, cultural familiarity or perspective, figurative familiarity, and the editing process, and have effects on the artistic result. This is followed by an analysis of selected aerial photographs of one of the authors, Ozker that discuss these reasons, as a visual art form. The photographs will be limited to vertical or near vertical aerial photographs that are taken parallel to the ground as they commonly yield the most abstract images. The study ends with a discussion of abstractions in aerial photography and its effects on the result as well as aesthetic experience of the onlooker.

Keywords: aerial photography, aerial abstraction, looking from above, design principles

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