West Villager’s new satellite-photo book is out of this world

Every year, tulip fields in Lisse, The Netherlands, begin to bloom in March and are in peak bloom by late April. The Dutch produce a total of 4.3 billion tulip bulbs annually, of which 53 percent are grown into cut flowers. Photos courtesy Benjamin Grant

BY LAUREN BERGER | What started as a passion project on Instagram for Benjamin Grant garnered more than 460,000 followers. The 27-year-old Villager’s high-definition satellite photographs provide a new perspective on the human impact on landscapes around the world. Grant’s Instagram page, in turn, led to his new, large-format 288-page hardcover book, “Overview.”

Grant’s venture began in 2013 when he launched a space club at his consulting company “as an excuse to bring people together for lunch,” the artist said in a recent interview at The New School, on W. 12th St. While collecting satellite images, he found online to bring to his next club meeting, he became enthralled by the breathtaking, intricate landscapes developed by humans, as viewed from above.

Looking down on Nishinoshima, a volcanic island 584 miles south of Tokyo. Starting in November 2013, the volcano began to erupt and continued until August 2015. Over that time, the island’s size grew from .02 square miles to .89 square miles.

In order to share these high-quality aerial shots, he needed access to downloadable satellite photographs. He partnered with Digital Globe, a space-imagery vendor — that is, once the company determined he wasn’t doing anything illegal, since there aren’t too many brand-strategy consultants independently requesting satellite information. Once he downloaded the images, he zoomed in, stitched them together, rotated them, and made slight color adjustments.

He began sharing the images on his Instagram page, “Daily Overview,” in early 2014 and continues to post one aerial view a day with a short, digestible caption. His unique posts caught the attention of an editor at Penguin Random House, who then offered Grant a book deal.

An aerial shot of Burning Man. The weeklong, annual event in Nevada's Black Rock Desert draws more than 65,000 participants, and is described as an experiment in community, art, self-expression and radical self-reliance.
An aerial shot of Burning Man. The weeklong, annual event in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert draws more than 65,000 participants, and is described as an experiment in community, art, self-expression and radical self-reliance.
A look down at the Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain. The solar concentrator contains 2,650 heliostat mirrors that focus the sun’s thermal energy to heat molten salt flowing through a 460-foot-tall central tower. The molten salt then circulates from the tower to a storage tank, where it is used to produce steam and generate electricity. In total, the facility displaces roughly 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Leaving his consulting job behind, Grant, a Yale graduate who studied history and art history, accepted the offer in hopes that he could change the way we see the Earth. “Overview” just hit shelves worldwide and is currently available at Grant’s favorite bookstore, Three Lives & Company.

“It’s a magical little place on W. 10th St. that I love to go to peruse for new books,” Grant said.

In addition to satellite photos and reading, the Christopher St. resident also enjoys biking through the Village’s quieter streets to clear his mind and explore. His enjoyment of the outdoors inspires his love for the planet. He uses the striking enhanced-photo images he creates as a means to pull people in to read his objective captions about humanity’s impact on environments around the world.

Benjamin Grant.

“The book is unbiased,” Grant stated. He carefully selected what photographs to use in it, based on their visual allure and the story they tell. But he also used his Instagram page as a focus group, learning from the successes of each post and the feedback he received on them.

While a satellite view of Central Park did make it onto a two-page spread in “Overview,” he hopes to use his drone to take his own photograph of the Great Lawn one day soon. In the future, he looks forward to visiting some of the places he has written about. For now, he’s focusing on his national book tour.

The Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport in Texas as seen from space. The airport stretches across 27 square miles. It’s the tenth-busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic, accommodating more than 64 million passengers each year.
The Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia on satellite cam. It’s the largest religious monument in the world. First it was Hindu, then Buddhist. Constructed in the 12th century, the 8.8-million-square-foot site features a moat and forest that harmoniously surround a massive temple at its center.
Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is a dazzling sight from above, as well as on land. Recognized as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the famed stretch of sand is divided into segments by lifeguard towers known as “postos.”
GribbensTailingBasin_R1C1 - Version 3
Tailings, seen from high above the Earth, are the waste and byproducts generated by mining operations. The tailings seen here were pumped into Gribbens Basin, next to the Empire and Tilden iron-ore mines in Negaunee, Michigan. Once the materials are pumped into the basin, they are mixed with water to create a sloppy mud known as slurry. The slurry is then pumped through magnetic separation chambers to extract usable ore and increase the mine’s total output. This “Overview” shot shows about 1 square mile of the basin.
The largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world is located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. “The Boneyard” — run by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group — contains more than 4,400 retired American military and government aircrafts.
Viewed from on high (way on high), cargo ships — some weighing up to 300,000 tons — wait to enter the Port of Singapore. The port is the world’s second busiest in terms of total tonnage, shipping one-fifth of the planet’s cargo containers and half of its annual supply of crude oil.

“Overview” includes 225 images and is currently selling for $25 (down from $40) on Amazon.

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