The cover image by John Griebsch appears almost a whimsical scribble. In his aerial photographs—taken from his vintage, single-engine Cessna 170B—Griebsch employs an ambiguity of scale and a strong graphic quality that shows the hand of humans on nature. "It was taken when the trees were trimmed. My photographs are at once factual and interpretive," Griebsch says.
Balancing abstraction with realism, Griebsch's photographs are full of fine details that reflect a painterly sense of composition. Looking closely, the viewer realizes his artistic intent: making geographical sense of the Earth.
Griebsch started photographing when he was 12 years old. Two years later, his father taught him to fly. Before taking off on his first solo flight, he was admonished not to go too far. "I was soon out of my father's view and yet from where I was, the airport was always in sight. Such are the perceptions of the airborne photographer," Griebsch says.
He began taking aerial photographs of ice and farmland close to his home in Rochester. Griebsch's scope eventually opened up on solo flights across the continent to find images of landscapes on a grander scale while taking in small detail. "In my most recent work, I've discovered historical and documentary themes—some of the images of factories and quarries present relics of the country's industrial past, while my newer images of the landscape and agriculture denote changes in the scale of farming and open space," he explains.
In planning for flight and photographs, Griebsch says, "In some cases I plan by extensively researching areas that I think have possibilities by viewing maps and satellite images. In other cases, I simply travel somewhere and fly around. The photographs are usually taken from an altitude of 1,000 feet—the airplane is slowed down and trimmed for stability. I open the window, put the airplane and the camera in the right place and then photograph. The selection process is, by necessity, nearly immediate." Griebsch has logged over 250,000 miles in his Cessna.
Reflecting on his work, he says, "Familiar landscapes take on a fresh context when airborne. The images require the confluence of several factors. There is the subject—a minuscule segment of the landscape that has captured my interest due to its sense of pattern, order or disarray. There is the essential contribution of light. There is the position and altitude of the airplane, and there is a need to capture the stillness and composition of the moment while moving over the subject at more than 70 miles per hour."
A selection of Griebsch's photos will appear in the group show "In the Balance" at Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson through April 16.