From the Air

There's a piece in this weekend's FT magazine about a project that was conducted in the last days of the Shah of Iran's rule – to photograph the country from the air: 

When Georg Gerster first flew over Iran on a business trip, he decided that he should somehow photograph the contours and colours that he saw passing beneath him. The Swiss aerial photographer bypassed officialdom by hand-delivering a request, in October 1975, to the Imperial Court in Tehran. Within weeks, Gerster was meeting an Iranian official anxious to know what kind of aircraft should be purchased. The Empress Farah, it seemed, had taken a liking to the project.

The pictures displayed in the piece are mesmerizing in a way that only pictures from the sky can be – but these seem to accurately portray the details of the landscape below and also to transform that landscape into a well detailed and slightly abstracted painting. For example:

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Tabriz, June 13 1976
Tiered croplands in the highlands near Tabriz, the earthquake-prone home of the Blue Mosque

Some of the pictures put in mind of the Belfast-based artist Clement McAleer, one of whose pieces I was lucky enough to pick up for a rather good price at an auction last summer.

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Lime Quarry – Clement McAleer, image courtesy of James Wray and Co. Gallery

The book ‘Paradise Lost: Persia from Above’ by Georg Gerster (Phaidon, £35) is published on March 21.