Bernhard Lang, the aerial photographer that captures life from above

Captured from above by helicopter or small plane, the birds-eye images conjure up strange and mesmerizing patterns that are all but invisible when standing on solid ground.

#Art & Culture

img.0 From aerial views: harbour. All images by Bernhard Lang, courtesy of the artist.

The aerial photographs of Bernhard Lang draw frequent comparison to abstract paintings, and looking at them it’s easy to see why. In many ways, Lang’s colorful compositions appeal to the childlike; they are rich with color, deliciously vibrant, full of satisfying grids and lines and the imagery of order. More simply, they offer a perspective on our world that we are rarely granted in such intimate detail. Soaring from on high, Lang indulges our collective dreams of taking to the air and floating above, leaving the earth below far behind.
In flight, Lang’s images free us from the bonds of gravity and allow us to take a more detached look at the world and our effect on it — both good and bad. It is this duality that Lang is most interested in investigating through his work, the strange balance between beauty and destruction, and the ongoing struggle for symbiosis between human kind and the earth we inhabit.
img.1 Aerial views: harbor.
img.2 Aerial views: tulip fields.
img.3 Aerial views: tulip fields.

Lang’s images demand repeat inspection, with different approaches offering multiple minute details. Rows of tulips, planted for miles, could just as easily be the knitted threads of a carpet or jumper (the tiny houses give it away). Likewise, the vividly hued shipping containers of a busy harbour call to mind the colourful lego bricks of children around the world.
Closer inspection however, often reveals a more destructive narrative contained within. That sprawling tapestry of red and white is actually one of manila’s most crowded slums, and those veins of colour so perfectly etched into the earth were in reality created by years of coal mining activity.
img.4 Aerial views: coal mine.
img.5 Aerial views: coal mine.

"I have always been fascinated by the vistas outside the window during usual passenger flights. I remember being particularly captivated by snowy landscapes during a passenger flight from Munich to Tokyo over Siberia, and the vast deserts I saw on another passenger flight to South Africa. It was very impressive to see these structures from 10,000 meters above…the landscapes, the huge rivers and structures and patterns in the deserts. These sceneries often reminded of my abstract paintings", said Lang.
img.6 Aerial views: Adria.
img.7 Aerial views: Adria.

"I have been captivated seeing from above the surreal looking arrangements of the different shaped nets and cages of these fish farms. The strange, ovoid enclosures appeared like abstract geometric designs to me. Intensive mass animal farming on the sea might be one way to help feeding the growing world population. On the other hand there are issues in fish farming which are quite controversial like feeds, diseases and parasites, use of strong antibiotic drugs, slaughter methods and so on."
img.8 Aerial views: fish farm.

"The most impactful experience I have had so far was in manila, philippines this year. I traveled there to shoot a series about overpopulation from above. the night before the photo flight I saw a huge fire in the city directly at one of the areas where we wanted to fly over to photograph. The next morning when we were flying over this slum area, we saw that this quarter was completely burned down. I saw people crawling through their destroyed homes, trying to find any of their belongings."
img.9 Aerial views: Manila.
img.10 Aerial views: Manila.


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