Since 1975, pilot and photographer Alex MacLean has flown his plane over vast swathes of the United States, documenting its varied landscape. Trained as an architect, his aerial photographs capture the history and evolution of the land, from vast agricultural patterns to major development projects and city grids. Through uncovering the transformation that is brought about by both human intervention and natural processes, Maclean’s powerful images attempt to help us better understand the relationship between natural and manmade environments.
The photographs are shot at an altitude so that the scenes are still identifiable while simultaneously veering towards abstraction. We can make out the ant-like figures of bathers enjoying a wave pool in Orlando, Florida, or the markings of a baseball diamond covered in snow. However, in many of Maclean’s images, we may rely more heavily on the caption to comprehend the subject matter, as with the photograph depicting algae between logs on a lake, which initially appears as a series of lines and two-dimensional forms. Mesmerizing geometric patterns are revealed in the docks on Lake Michigan and cut flower fields in California, urging us to consider our societal values and the impact they have on the environment.
Born in 1947 in Seattle, Washington, Alex MacLean lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts. He gained his Master’s in Architecture from Harvard University in 1973, and his commercial pilot license in 1975. Maclean has won numerous awards, including the 2009 CORINE International Book Award, the American Academy of Rome’s Prix de Rome in Landscape Architecture for 2003-2004, and grants from foundations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting in 2014. His work was exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010 and has been exhibited widely at major international institutions.
MacLean is the author of eleven books including, Up on the Roof: New York's Hidden Skyline Spaces (2012); Las Vegas | Venice (2010); Chroniques Aeriennes: L'art d'Alex MacLean (2010); Alex MacLean: Given a Free Hand (2010); OVER: The American Landscape at the Tipping Point (2008); Visualizing Density (2007), and The Playbook (2006).