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‘Our home’ captured from above

By Korea Herald

Published : Jan. 16, 2012 - 18:49

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French aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand showcases beautiful views of Earth


Living in the urban jungle, occupied with trivial, everyday matters, rarely do we realize how many grand and beautiful things we overlook.

French aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand reminds us of what we have been missing out on through photos of different landscapes that are so mystical that they seem almost fictional.

At his first-ever solo exhibition here titled “Earth from Above ― It’s My Home,” currently underway at Seoul Museum of Art in Seosomun-dong, central Seoul, the photographer showcases breathtaking photos of the planet Earth captured from several thousand kilometers above ground.

The well-known photos of the heart-shaped mangrove forest in New Caledonia or the “The Eye of the Maldive Islands” are only a few examples of his stunning captures that are on show. A total of 220 aerial photos selected among a vast collection of more than 20,000 Arthus-Bertrand took during the past 19 years are on display. 
“The Eye of the Maldive Islands” “The Eye of the Maldive Islands”
“Agricultural landscape near Yanggu, Gangwon Province” (Yann Arthus-Bertrand) “Agricultural landscape near Yanggu, Gangwon Province” (Yann Arthus-Bertrand)

The 64-year-old photographer was once an actor, but changed his career after he followed his wife to Kenya in 1976, where she was to write a dissertation about lions. Snapping away at lions at her side, he found his new goal in life: to record nature and Earth.

He founded the Altitude Agency in 1991, the world’s first press agency and image bank specializing in aerial photography. In 1994, he started a long-term project sponsored by UNESCO in which he captured landscapes from helicopters and hot air balloons. He unveiled the results to the public in 2000 at the show “Earth from Above” first held in Paris and in 110 more cities later. The show has attracted about 150 million viewers so far.

The Seoul show includes 30 photos featuring the Korean Peninsula. Even locals may not immediately recognize the places, though, as they appear to be unfamiliar and quite artistic. A photo showing ginseng fields colored in blue and yellow in Yanggu-gun, Gangwon Province, for example, is reminiscent of Piet Mondrian’s colorful abstract paintings.

As much as they are beautiful, the photographer was worried that such sights are on the verge of disappearing.

“I could see the impact of human on earth, taking photos of the planet from the sky. The world’s total population was about 2 billion when I was born, but now it is over 7 billion. Scientists are worried about environmental issues like biological diversity or climate change. These problems changed my life,” he said in a recent interview.

Not surprisingly, in his photo capturing the peak of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the 11,000-year-old ice cap is almost gone. Many had expected it to last forever.

The show offers more than just photos taken from above. It also shows Arthus-Bertrand’s photos of animals and people taken at human-eye level, and his movie “HOME” introducing moving images of the Demilitarized Zone in Korea, which is being unveiled to the public for the first time.

The exhibition runs through March 15 at Seoul Museum of Art in Seosomun-dong, central Seoul. Tickets range from 6,000 won to 10,000 won. For more information, call (02) 3789-8697 or visit seoulmoa.seoul.go.kr.

By Park Min-young  (claire@heraldcorp.com)