Photographer Benjamin Grant has set off on a mission to change the way we see our planet with his stunning photo project
Our project was inspired, and derives its name, from an idea known as the Overview Effect. This term refers to the sensation astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole. They have the chance to appreciate our home in its entirety, to reflect on its beauty and its fragility all at once. That’s the cognitive shift that we hope to inspire.
From our line of sight on the earth’s surface, it’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things we’ve constructed, the sheer complexity of the systems we’ve developed, or the devastating impact that we’ve had on our planet. We believe that beholding these forces as they shape our Earth is necessary to make progress in understanding who we are as a species, and what is needed to sustain a safe and healthy planet.
As a result, the Overviews (what we call these images) focus on the places and moments where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape. Each Overview starts with a thought experiment. We consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea.
The mesmerizing flatness seen from this vantage point, the surprising comfort of systematic organization on a massive scale, or the vibrant colors that we capture will hopefully turn your head. However, once we have that attention, we hope you will go beyond the aesthetics, contemplate just exactly what it is that you’re seeing, and consider what that means for our planet.The results are so amazing, Grant has even put together a book of over 200 high-resolution satellite photographs. It’s titled “Overview: A New Perspective of Earth”, and can be purchased through Amazon.
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Bondi Beach and its surrounding suburb are located in Sydney, Australia. One of the city’s most stunning and popular destinations, the beach gets its name from the Aboriginal word “Bondi” that means waves breaking over rocks.
This Overview captures the urban plan of Brasilia. The city was founded on April 21, 1960 in order to move the capital from Rio de Janeiro to a more central location within Brazil. The design – resembling an airplane from above – was developed by Lúcio Costa and prominently features the modernist buildings of the celebrated architect Oscar Niemeyer at its center.
The town of Palmanova, Italy is recognized by its concentric layout known as a star fort. The rationale for this construction was that an attack on any individual wall could be defended from the two adjacent star points by shooting the enemy from behind. The three rings that surround Palmanova were completed in 1593, 1690, and 1813.
Valparaíso, Chile is built upon dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Known as “The Jewel of the Pacific,” the city is the sixth largest in the county and is home to approximately 285,000 residents. Valparaíso is also home to the country’s first public library, South America’s first volunteer fire department, and the world’s longest running Spanish language newspaper in continuous publication.
Washington DC , USA
The urban plan for Washington, D.C. – the L’Enfant Plan – was developed in 1791 by Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant for George Washington, the first President of the United States. L’Enfant designed a compass-aligned grid for the city’s streets, with intersecting diagonal avenues that were later named after the states of the union. The diagonal avenues also intersect with the north-south and east-west streets at circles and rectangular plazas in order to create more open, green spaces. Lastly, L’Enfant laid out a 400 foot-wide (122 meter) garden-lined “grand avenue” – what is now know as the National Mall – that connects the US Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial (the latter two are visible at right in this Overview).
This Overview captures the Example District in Barcelona, Spain. The neighborhood is characterized by its strict grid pattern, octagonal intersections, and apartments with communal courtyards.
This Overview captures residential communities in Delray Beach, Florida, USA. According to the 2010 census, 20.4% of the town’s 34,156 households are vacant.
This Overview shows Burning Man – a week-long, annual event held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, USA. Drawing more than 65,000 participants each year, the event is described as an experiment in community, art, self-expression, and radical self-reliance. The temporary residence of the campers is arranged in a series of concentric streets with the “Man Sculpture” and his supporting complex at the center.
This Overview captures the Arc de Triomphe. The structure, which was commissioned in 1806 after Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz during the peak of his fortunes, is located at the center of twelve radiating avenues in Paris, France. Because of numerous delays, including the abdication of Napoleon, construction of the monument took nearly 30 years to complete.
This Overview captures Jeongwang-dong, an industrial sector in the city of Ansan, South Korea. The Korean government intensively has driven a plan to develop the city, particularly in this area, with an emphasis on manufacturing. The striking blue color that you see here results from the use of aluminum roofing, which is used for its low cost and longevity.
This Overview captures Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Frequently recognized as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, its 2.25 miles of sand are divided into segments by lifeguard towers known as “postos.”
This Overview captures Durrat Al Bahrain in Bahrain. The development will consist of 15 connected, artificial islands (including six atolls, five fish-shaped, and two crescent-shaped). Construction costs are estimated at $6 billion and the project is slated for completion this year.
ITALY , VENICE
This Overview captures Venice, Italy – a city situated upon 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by bridges. With tide waters expected to rise to perilous levels in the coming decades, the city has constructed 78 giant steel gates across the three inlets through which water from the Adriatic could surge into Venice’s lagoon. The panels – which weigh 300-tons and are 92ft wide and 65ft high – are fixed to massive concrete bases dug into the seabed.
NEW YORK , USA
This Overview captures Central Park in New York City. Located in the middle of Manhattan, the park spans 843 acres – or 6% of the borough. One of the most influential innovations in the park’s design was its “separate circulation” systems for pedestrians, horseback riders, and automobiles. This concealed “crosstown” commercial traffic in sunken roadways (known as “transverses” today), and densely planted shrub belts in order to maintain a rustic ambiance.
The Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, United Arab Emirates is an artificial island that was created with 3.3 billion cubic meters of sand and 7 million tons of rock.