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Rains Journal Vol. 12: Alex MacLean

October 11, 2018

Words & Interview: Maria Bill Rasmussen
Photos: Alex MacLean

Pilot, self-taught photographer and humanitarian, 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 and the art of time.


Why are you capturing the world from above?

I am particularly interested in environmentalism and social justice and I believe the aerial vantage point gives a revealing point of view of large-scale relationships. Aerial imaging offers a perspective that reveals patterns and spatial relationships that provide unique insights about landscape. For example, the income inequality in the United States becomes apparent when you see how pervasive housings and neighborhoods are sorted and segregated by income.


Exactly what is it that you want to say with your photographs?

I am an activist for both environmentalism and social justice, so generally my photos range in content from showing the beauty of our environment and natural systems (and how they are despoiled) to direct and indirect messages regarding social and environmental issues.


How do you get your photographs to do show your message?

I do this through composition and contrast of common elements such as pathways, containments, borders, and boundaries. One of the things I find that really helps a photograph is if you can incorporate a sense of time. Time can be marked and sensed in different continuums. You can detect natural processes, which are often left as markings or tracks that the viewer senses happen over time. You can also show time through lighting as both time of day and time of year. Geologic time can be shown through patterns of stratification and erosion. Any event is a representation of time, really. Time is something you don’t necessarily think about but is more closely related to a feeling that you have when looking at a photo. When you look at photography, you don’t really think of time so much as you feel and sense its presence in a subconscious way.



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