Bernhard Lang's aerial photographs reveal the impact humans have on the environment


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The Independent Culture

It was flying over Russia on his way to Tokyo 10 years ago that first awoke Bernhard Lang's obsession with aerial photography; passing over Siberia's snowy landscapes in particular made an impression on him.

Later that year, when he took to the skies again to travel from his native Germany to Cape Town, he couldn't stop staring down over the deserts of Africa.

"I kept it in mind to find a way to capture these sorts of images in the future," recalls the Munich-based 44-year-old.

He soon realised there was a dearth of this sort of photography, and looked into hiring a suitable plane that would allow him to take shots that made the world look two-dimensional.

And so, for the past three years, Lang has worked on a series of aerial projects while being flown variously in an ultralight plane and a helicopter.

From 4,000ft, he has turned his lens down on everything from giant open coal mines to wind farms to sunbathers.

Container ships during loading and unloading (Bernhard Lang)

All his photographs hint at the influence that humans wield over the natural landscape, at the same time as highlighting how insignificant we are.

The images include those here of shipping containers in the port of Bremerhaven in northern Germany. All the pictures were taken over the course of one three-hour flight last October – though Lang had to wait six weeks for the right weather and light.

Parking area with new cars for export and import (Bernhard Lang)

"The aerial view shows the world from a different, unusual and revealing perspective," says Lang. "I hope the impact that we have on the environment comes through.

These huge rows of containers show what a massive, but mostly unseen, industry international shipping has become. It's an explicit footprint of globalisation."

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