Views from Above

Aerial photo of a former tobacco farm in Cerro Gordo, NC

Aerial photo of a former tobacco farm in Cerro Gordo, NC.

About two years ago, at a Creative Capital retreat sponsored by our state’s Arts Council, I met Ken Abbott, an Asheville-based photographer who has been doing incredible work with low elevation aerial photography (LEAP). Using a tethered balloon and a digital camera, Ken photographs landscapes that are sometimes beautiful, sometimes ravaged by development (including mountaintop removal). He’s even gotten himself into trouble (almost) documenting supermax prisons from above.

Ken and I had the idea to collaborate on a project with students, and with generous support from the North Carolina Arts Council, the North Carolina Humanities Council (and wonderful Indiegogo contributors!) brought our pilot program, “Views from Above,” to West Columbus High School in rural eastern North Carolina. For two weeks, we worked with students to do both land and aerial work–photographing using the LEAP system, evaluating and arranging images, and doing landscape work and interviews in two small towns. With plenty of student help, I’m blogging about the work on Orion‘s website for the next few weeks; check out our first post here.

Ken, by the way, will publish his first book next year with GFT. I saw the collected photographs while we were in Columbus County and can’t wait to get a copy.

P.S. Orion is accepting submissions November 1-15!

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