The University of Arizona

From Above: Images of a Storied Land

February 8September 20, 2014

Adriel Heisey in his hand-built plane

What do you get when you mix a person who has daredevil tendencies with a talent for photography, a head for engineering, a love of archaeology, and the drive to earn a pilot’s license at the age of 16? 

You get Adriel Heisey.

Heisey’s aerial photographs of historic landscapes and archaeological sites are the subject of a traveling exhibit featured at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson.

From Above: Images of a Storied Land, runs February 8 through September 20, 2014.

Art That’s Over the Top

Archaeology being an essentially terrestrial occupation conducted at eye level, the advantage of an elevated view of one’s site has always been appreciated by the archaeologist. With the invention of photography, aerial shots have been sought after since the mid-1800s. And if we fast forward through the rapid evolutions of both flying contraptions and image-capturing technologies, we are arrive back at Adriel Heisey.

Heisey and his hand-built fixed-wing flying machines are a boon to archaeologists. Over the decades, he has formed many important and lasting relationships with archaeologists and preservation agencies on both sides of the US/Mexico border.

The exhibit, From Above, is the result of a working partnership with Archaeology Southwest, the Tucson-based conservation nonprofit.

But while Heisey’s photographs certainly accomplish documentary and scientific purposes, they are also strikingly beautiful, well-composed, poetic, contemplative—in a word, artistic. Exhibit co-curator and Archaeology Southwest President Bill Doelle, notes, “As an archaeologist, I hope that the scientific content in these images comes through…however, these photographs are not primarily about science. They elegantly reveal the diversity of the human relationship with the earth.”

From Above Illuminates What’s Below

Pueblo Room Blocks in Snow, 2001. Photograph by Adriel Heisey.
(Click image to enlarge.)

From Above features sixty large-format aerial photographs of historical landscapes across the Southwest. Each captures human imprints on the landscape—past and present—and reveals patterns perceived only from the air. Relationships among time, change, life, and landscape are revealed by subtleties such as footprints in freshly fallen snow. “I find great satisfaction in using technology to heighten awareness and appreciation,” affirms Heisey, who captured the images from the open seat of his experimental Kolb TwinStar airplane. “[Ancient] ruins seem delicate, passive, vulnerable, and unrecoverable…this experience can increase our apprehension of their place in the landscape.”

Heisey’s aerial photographs have been featured in numerous publications, including Arizona Highways, New Mexico Magazine, National Geographic, American Photo, Photo Life, Whole Earth, Journal of the Southwest, and Nature Conservancy.

Change Your Perspective, See Something New

Through the exhibit, the public is invited to consider anew the wonder and fragility of archaeological sites such as Chaco Canyon and Tumamoc Hill, living communities such as the Hopi Mesas and Santa Clara Pueblo, as well as special places off the beaten path.

See From Above at the Arizona State Museum

From Above: Images of a Storied Land runs at the Arizona State Museum February 8September 20, 2014. Arizona State Museum is located on the University of Arizona campus, just inside the Main Gate at Park Avenue and University Boulevard in Tucson. 1013 E. University Blvd. Hours and Admission Fees

About Archaeology Southwest

From Above: Images of a Storied Land is a travelling exhibit curated by Archaeology SouthwestOpens in a new window, a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona. Archaeology Southwest explores and protects the places of our past across the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest. For three decades, the nonprofit has practiced a holistic, conservation-based approach known as Preservation Archaeology. By conducting low-impact investigations of big-picture questions, sharing findings with the public, and developing powerful site protection strategies, Archaeology Southwest creates meaningful connections to the past and respectfully protects its increasingly endangered resources.

This traveling exhibit is brought to you in partnership with, and through the generosity of,

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