For the past fifteen years, photographer George Steinmetz has been working on a somewhat obsessive project to photograph all of the world’s extreme deserts. Much of his field work has involved using a motorized paraglider, the world’s lightest and slowest aircraft, to get aerial photographs of these remote areas. This is a foot-lunched aircraft with a backpack motor and parachute-style wing, that only requires a small patch of open land for take-off or landing.
The field work for this project took Steinmetz to 27 countries plus Antarctica. Among other challenges, it involved smuggling an aircraft into Libya, getting arrested for suspicion of spying in Iran and Yemen, and multiple emergency landings on both land and in the sea. What he discovered in the process of this epic project was a collection of co-evolved landscapes, that are like a disparate family, each with unique qualities, but all containing similar features, such as dunes, salt lakes, and wind erosion. He also found unique forms of well-adapted wildlife and cultures that have developed ingenious ways to eke out a living on the ragged edge of existence. He found that what many people consider to be wastelands are actually the last great class of wilderness left on earth, and these fragile ecosystems and pristine areas are becoming threatened as humans extract their natural resources.
In this lecture, Steinmetz will present a broad selection of spectacular low-altitude aerial photographs from his field work, along with video clips of his aircraft in flight, and explain his methodology for exploring these remote areas. A collection of work from this project was featured in the November 2012 issue of National Geographic Magazine.
Born in Beverly Hills in 1957, George graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Geophysics. He began his career in photography after hitchhiking through Africa for 28 months. He has worked on assignment for National Geographic and GEO magazine for over 25 years, and received a grant from the National Science Foundation to spend ten weeks in Antarctica documenting the frozen desert. He has won numerous awards from World Press, the Overseas Press Club, and Pictures of the Year. Feature stories about his work have appeared in The New Yorker, Smithsonian, and Stern.
A member of the Explorer’s Club since 2011, George lives in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, with his wife, Wall Street Journal editor Lisa Bannon, their daughter, Nell, and twin sons John and Nicholas.
Free to EC Student Members, $5 with Student ID
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