As recently as a century ago the idea of viewing the world from above was little more than a fantasy: the airplane was still in its infancy, with rocketry and satellites still decades into the future. Those who could not take to the air had no recourse but drawing in order to represent their world from an aerial perspective. This limitation is difficult to imagine today when access to plan photography is never further than the nearest Internet connection. Anyone with a smartphone has, in essence, the entire world in their pocket. What do we do with this power? In becoming a civilization capable of producing these databases, we have increasingly altered the Earth to better suit our needs. The images which satellites produce do not reflect unspoiled wilderness: cities and roads sprawl ever further across the landscape, a clear visual indicator of humanity’s increasing impact on the planet. While plan drawings show us an idea of the future, plan photographs capture change which has already been realized – for better or for worse.
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