May 21, 2003
Yann Arthus Bertrand – aesthetics trumps politics

Earlier this evening there was a TV show about a French aerial photographer by the name of Yann Arthus Bertrand. This is a new name to me, but it turns out his work is not, because there was an exhibition of his photos outside the London Science Museum about a year ago or so, and I saw it. And guess what, I really liked it.

I even liked it despite Bertrand's extremely obvious political ambitions for his activities. He votes a straight environmental left ticket, and peppers his shows with big, simple-minded slogans about how X per cent of people are starving or suffering from Y or whatever, and the implied but not actually stated punch line is that we should all be socialists and thereby save the desperately threatened world and the desperately miserable people who live on it.

The trouble is that his pictures tell an entirely different story. They are gorgeous, and they tell of a gorgeous world, of a world so big and splendid that it will effortlessly shrug off any nasty thing that mere people may manage to disfigure it with, and in any case most of the things that men do are, if viewed from the air, really rather nice to look at. Even things like rubbish dumps.

This is an "irregular river" in the desert of southern Morocco. Jackson Pollock eat your heart out.


And here are some olive groves viewed from above Tunisia. Not quite so gorgeous, maybe, but very interesting. Turn it sideways and it's a lovely start-up screen.


The captions are all fashionable misery, but the pictures themselves are sheer delight. And I bet I'm not the only one gazing and smiling, and reading only to find out what they are, rather than to find out what terrible news it all is.

The link to the man (above) takes you to the collection of pictures from which these two come. I recommend a leisurely browse. Since this is a "culture" blog, I'll allow myself one more, chosen because it looks even more like nice looking abstract art than the previous two.


This man also knows a lot about spontaneous architectural orders, but I'll save that for another time.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:53 PM
Category: Photography