PHOTOS: Artist Christoph Gielen spots interesting patterns in urban sprawl

Urban sprawl isn’t something you think about everyday, except perhaps when you’re stuck in a traffic jam heading home. In his book “Ciphers”, German-born photographer Christoph Gielen helps us grasp the impact our households have on the landscape with his aerial shots of suburbia’s unusual shapes.

Metro catches up with Gielen to learn about his interest in aerial photography and his book, “Ciphers.”

Metro: What inspired you to do this project?

Gielen: I have always been fascinated by sustainable planning, urban sprawl, and its ecological impact. But let’s face it: it can be a very boring, bland topic. So I wanted to do something that would be compelling and grab people’s attention. Back in 2003, I was doing some aerial photography of controlled implosions in Scotland when I got the idea for the urban sprawl project – to photograph different suburbian developments across the U.S. – from Nevada to Florida – from a helicopter.

What did you see up there?

The most unusual patterns imaginable. I could make out different floral shapes and designs that resembled a spider’s web. But what I captured are places that are completely unsustainable.

So, you’re pointing to some social message?

Yes, I want to trigger a discussion. We are all worried about the environment and climate change, and I wanted to place this concept of car-centric urban sprawl at the heart of the debate. I want to awaken in people a desire for an ecological symbiosis between nature and the human-built world.

I think these photographs provoke the idea of hidden writing, secret codes and encoded messages. These patterns are forms that we need to decipher. They look like something organic, something seen under a microscope, something that needs to be analyzed.

Your book is named “Ciphers”. Why so?

I think these photographs provoke the idea of hidden writing, secret codes and encoded messages. These patterns are forms that we need to decipher. They look like something organic, something seen under a microscope, something that needs to be analyzed.

They have the look of concrete crop circles.

It’s very ironic that many of these patterns are floral or organic-looking, but there is very little sustainable or environmental about these developments.

To learn more about Gielen’s work visit his site at www.christophgielen.com and follow him on Twitter.




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