Tulip fields as abstract art Bernhard Langs amazing aerial images

The Germans photographs of landscapes share a geometric beauty with the work of Mondrian

Bernhard Langs photographs play cruel jokes on their viewers. They invite us on a sky-high journey to marvel at our wild and wondrous planet, only to send us crashing back down to the cold hard floor of facts.

His photographs of the tulip fields of Keukenhof in the Netherlands are sobering antidotes to Monets tipsy waterlilies and Van Goghs intoxicating white roses. Flowers, those ultimate motifs of the romantic imagination, are here contained by human hand, mass farmed in fields drawn as if by supersize rulers. If they bring to mind any artwork, it is the clinical geometric abstraction of Piet Mondrian.

What interests me is that there is no square left in the world that hasnt been shaped by humanity, not even our forests, Lang says. Nature is in retreat everywhere. Thats something you cannot comprehend from our usual perspective on the ground.

Munich-born Lang, who trained as a commercial photographer, says he has always been the kind of person who insisted on getting a window seat during a long-haul flight. But it wasnt until 2010, flying high up in the air over Siberia, that he developed the idea for his Aerial Views project, which now encompasses everything from coastlines to cattle farms, and won him a Sony World Photo award in 2015.

There is no square left in the world which hasnt been shaped by humanity, says Lang.

Unlike the ubiquitous sunset-through-the-aeroplane-window snap of Instagram fame, Langs photographs require meticulous planning and craft. After deciding on a location, the 46-year-old has to hire a plane or a helicopter and book a pilot and be prepared to cancel if the weather doesnt play along.

He says: A clear sky is ideal, but a slightly overcast sky can also be fine the problem is when you have a clear sky with individual clouds that cast shadows. As a photographer, you really learn to hate clouds.

Once in the air, Lang loosely straps himself into a passenger seat to shoot through an open window, while instructing his pilot via a headset. After initially spending years photographing stark and brutal industrial landscapes around Germany coalmines in the Ruhr and stacks of containers in the port in Bremerhaven he has since taken aerial shots over Italy, Spain, Holland, Florida and Kansas.

For his Mar del Plastico photographs of covered greenhouses in Andalusia, his aircraft had to soar to 3,000 metres to get the right angles. For pictures of Italys Adriatic beaches and Munichs Starnberg lake, he got his pilot to fly much lower, only 500 metres over the heads of the beachgoers below.

Taking pictures of Kerkenhof presented Lang with even more constraints, since the seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths only come into full bloom for three to four weeks a year, usually between April and May. In addition, his pilot had to dodge the traffic from nearby Schiphol, one of Europes busiest airports.

There are parts of our planet that look like a foreign planet from the sky, like some post-apocalyptic landscape, Lang says. But the point of my photographs is not to moralise. There is also often a strange beauty there, the beauty of an abstract painting.


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jul/17/bernhard-lang-aerial-photographs-tulip-fields

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