Strangely Beautiful

My brother showed me a book once, filled with aerial shots of "unnatural" landscapes: parcels of land, covered with buildings; fields, littered with trash; mountains, cut open and apart for mining; and waterways, polluted with chemicals.

I can't remember the book's title, unfortunately, but there were probably 300 photographs in it. And as I flipped from picture to picture, something crazy happened: I became less aware of, and less interested in, what the images depicted. Although the photographs showed places that had been ruined and destroyed, they looked quite beautiful. (No doubt this was the photographer's objective, to make the viewer pause, catch himself, and perhaps to feel bad, as I did.)

This morning, when I was watching CNN, I had a similar reaction. Aerial footage of the Gulf of Mexico, where oil is pouring from an exploded oil rig, showed the body of water glistening in a rainbow of colors, with water rippling its surface. For a fleeting moment, there was a real disconnect. I had no sense — at a micro level — of what was happening there. Some images of the spill, courtesy of The New York Times, are available here.

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