The history of aerial image-making can be traced back to the mid-19th century. In 1858, French photographer Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known by the pseudonym Nadar, produced the first image of its kind, immortalising Petit-Bicêtre (now Petit-Clamart) – a village outside Paris – from a hot air balloon over 200 feet above ground. Since then, humans have used an array of methods to document the world from such dizzying heights: strapping cameras to pigeons, planes and even rockets. Drones began to appear in the 1980s, and, today, are wielded creatively by users the world over. Furthermore, there are currently 5,000 satellites in orbit, looking down at Earth for surveillance and communication purposes.
Slovakia-based Michal Zahornacky is a visual artist harnessing these technologies. Shown here is the DOTS series, which documents urban landscapes from the air. Zebra crossings, intersections, ping-pong tables and playgrounds are transformed into abstract compositions, punctuated by bright circles of orange, blue, red and pink fabric. “I choose to show people as small dots,” the artist explains. “It represents our place on this planet.” Each scene would, ordinarily, be filled with individuals: crossing roads, playing hopscotch, driving. Instead, we are presented human absence. Streets are deserted, cars are nowhere to be found. In this way, Zahornacky reduces man-made structures to a simple series of lines, curves and colours.
The resulting images are clean and graphic, evoking not only satellite imagery akin to Google Maps, but geometric forms reminiscent of 20th century Bauhaus and Constructivism. Yet it’s Zahornacky’s interest in people, and their wider position on Earth, that is reflected in his wider body of work, which includes surreal portraiture and manipulated architecture. “In recent years, I have been inspired by topics such as identity, dynamics, traditions or the body,” he reflects. “My work sits somewhere near the thin line between reality and fiction.” Zahornacky has exhibited across China, France, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland.
All images courtesy Michal Zahornacky, from DOTS.