ALEX MACLEAN / THE FUTURE OF THE FUTURE -
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MacLean’s fascination with landscape began with annual family visits to the Thousand Islands at the head of the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York. His interests continued through college, and after graduating from Harvard College in 1969 and earning a Master of Architecture degree from Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1973, MacLean received his commercial pilot license in 1975. During an economic downturn, which made jobs in the design field hard to find, MacLean established his own company, Landslides Aerial Photography. Although MacLean began to shoot aerial photographs for university libraries, he eventually acquired municipal, institutional, corporate, and private clients. His first plane was a Cessna 172, which he bought in 1980; today he flies his Cessna 182, based at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts.
View From The Top
Alex MacLean takes both hands off the controls of his two-seater Cessna 182, grabs his camera, leans out the open window of his cockpit, and starts shooting. The plane, meanwhile, starts wiggling. .MacLean is an artist and also a cartographer. He's exhibited in great art museums, including a solo turn at the Menil Collection in Houston, but he's also participated in projects including a study of population density he's currently doing for the Cambridge-based Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. His career is international. Two years ago he won the Prix de Rome, a venerable award in landscape architecture. Through these photographs, he shows the organizations and urban developments that define the different lifestyles and consumption. Changing perception of the urban world, Alex Maclean captures certain truths to urban issues. He addresses fundamental issues of the 20th century, atmosphere, electricity, deserts, water use, rising water, waste and recycling planning. His book “Over” published in 2008 a fascinating book on “crazy America” view from the sky. Much more than a collection of images “Over” is a brilliant plunge into a world undergoing a collapse marked by urbanization, the illustration to the absurd of the folly of men who thought they could tame Nature. Whether one looks at urban planning at the scale of the American subprimes around the Walt Disney complex at Marne-la-Vallée, or further south in Aquitaine the implantation of the first “gatted communities”, these cities reserved for unique social classes, if we look at the widespread use of extensive agriculture or urbanization of wild coastal shores, and more generally the overall damage to landscapes.
Alex Maclean whose career had led him to capture aerial views overseas, he was not able to do the same work in Europe. The French Ministry of Culture and Communication had commissioned him to compose a series of shots of La Défense and the Seine Arche, and the axis connecting the historical center to Paris. Besides the scarcity of permits to fly over the capital, it is a unique opportunity of a proper inventory between the past and the present. This photographic work plan will serve as basis for the proposed Greater Paris.
So from the sky, nothing is spared. Unless a ecological revolution.
Books: Chroniques Aériennes, Over, The Playbook, Look at the land, Visualizing Density, Taking measures, Given a free hand (Paris, La Défense Seine Arche).
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