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American aerial photographer.
Biography prvided by the artist (Sept 2015)
Pilot and photographer Alex MacLean has flown his plane over much of the United States documenting the landscape. Trained as an architect, he has portrayed the history and evolution of the land from vast agricultural patterns to city grids, recording changes brought about by human intervention and natural processes. His powerful and descriptive images provide clues to understanding the relationship between the natural and constructed environments. MacLean’s photographs have been exhibited widely in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia and are found in private, public and university collections. He has won numerous awards, including the 2009 CORINE International Book Award for OVER: The American Landscape at the Tipping Point, the American Academy of Rome’s Prix de Rome in Landscape Architecture for 2003-2004 and grants from foundations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting in 2014. He was most recently a fellow at the HWK Institute in Delmenhorst, Germany. MacLean is the author/coauthor of ten books including: Up on the Roof: New York’s Hidden Skyline Spaces (2012), Chroniques Aeriennes: L’art d’Alex MacLean (2010), Las Vegas| Venice (2010), OVER: The American Landscape at the Tipping Point (2008), Visualizing Density (2007), The Playbook (2006), Designs on the Land: Exploring America from the Air (2003), Above and Beyond; Visualizing Change in Small Towns and Rural Areas (2002), Taking Measures Across the American Landscape (1996) and Look at the Land; Aerial Reflections of America (1993). MacLean maintains a studio and lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
For me, the art of aerial photography is the experience of piloting myself through three-dimensional space to find the perspective that brings light, atmosphere, and pattern together to make a meaningful, two-dimensional composition. The views from my plane offer infinite perspectives on the landscape from varying altitudes, directions, and angles. The landscape itself provides unlimited subject matter. Despite these countless variations, there are recurrent lines and patterns such as pathways, borders, boundaries, edges, overlays, and containments, all of which reveal transitions and contrasting conditions within a landscape. These characteristics become symbols or metaphors for organizing principles. The information embedded in these landscapes tells us a lot about past and present natural and built environments. The resulting photographs inform us about process and culture.
Although the flight path may be premeditated, I can’t anticipate all of the variables and surprises. Part of the experience is that moment of discovery, recognizing the unexpected picture and then taking it. I rarely modify or crop the image in the studio; the finished photograph usually captures the first moment that I see it. I take photographs that express thoughts my feelings about what is happening on the land, and I hope they will influence the viewer’s thoughts and feelings as well.
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