The Satellite Collections are a series of digital prints in which I collect, cut out, and arrange manmade structures from Google Maps' satellite imagery. These typologies remove things like swimming pools and basketball courts from their familiar environments so that we might consider them in more detail.
For my latest print, 681 Observatory Domes, Telescopes, and Other Structures for Long Range Observation, I spent upwards of 50 hours collecting and cutting out observational structures both big and small. The satellite perspective seems especially appropriate here, since it's from these white dots and circles that Earth dwellers look out at the realm in which satellites operate -- and beyond. They're reflective of a planetary sense of being.
The structures are collected from 43 different countries and include important sites in typically barren locations, like the 1000-foot-wide radio telescope in Arecibo, Chile, the observatories atop Mauna Kea, and the Very Large Array in New Mexico. But also included here are the small observatories, often found in a field on the edge of town or attached to a high school, that represent the efforts of astronomy clubs and curious amateurs. These observatories are also memorials; many of them are named after local scientists.
More generally, my collection is meant as a meditation on observation and the poetic qualities of scale. It configures the domes into their own constellation; the sizes of the domes are not reflective of actual size, but of resolution in that area (the size that was available at the most zoomed-in level). I've also, in cutting these out, stayed true to the way they appear on Google Maps, so some of them are distorted in ways that betray the 3D mapping that captured them. In that sense, this print is as much about imaging as it is about images.
what you're getting
I will be using this image to produce an edition of 100 24"x24" prints with Lightsource SF, a printer I have worked with for over six years. These will be printed on a Canon imagePROGRAF iPF9400 with the LUCIA EX Ink Set, on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Pearl, a 100% cotton acid-free paper designed for archival inkjet prints. Each print will also come with a certificate of authenticity, signed by me and indicating the edition number. A list of all the observatories, telescopes, etc. in the print will also be included.
People sometimes assume that prints using web-based imagery will be blurry and low-resolution. Although the resolution varies among the domes due to the variance on Google Maps, the print as a whole is high resolution. In other words, this print was designed to reward long periods of close looking.
more about me
I am a Bay Area native / captive (born a few miles from where the Google headquarters would eventually be!). I teach design and internet art at Stanford University. For many, many years my own work has involved collecting and systematizing imagery from Google Maps as well as other online ephemera -- Craigslist photos, YouTube screen shots, etc. My goal has been to provide a momentary alienation from the familiar and everyday, in order to provide access to the bizarre and unexpected that is right underneath it. I'm specifically attracted to satellite imagery because of the ways in which it captures "human things" from a distant, automated perspective that a human was never meant to inhabit. From this view, the specificity and fragility of the built environment comes into full focus.
more about the satellite collections
See some other Satellite Collections here; read the Satellite Collections essay here. The Satellite Collections have been featured in TIME's LightBox as well as in a mural on the side of a Google data center.
Risks and challenges
There is a small possibility of delay in printing and/or shipping.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)