When we step back and take a look at the bigger picture, it’s easier to see any situation more clearly. It’s similar to aerial photography: when you go up there and see the bigger picture from above, you’ll see so much that’s impossible to see from the ground.
With his work, German photographer Tom Hegen is the perfect example of this. He focuses on aerial photography that documents the traces we leave on the earth’s surface. In his project The Solar Panel Series, he photographed massive solar panel installations from the air. Not only his project focuses on the human’s impact on the earth, but the photos are exquisite and definitely not something you see every day.
“In a single hour, the amount of power from the sun that strikes the Earth is more than the entire world consumes in a year,” Tom starts his project description. Let that sink in. “Having this in mind, renewable energy sources could be the key to combating climate change.” One of these renewable sources certainly is the Sun, so Tom wanted to explore this topic in his photography project.
Tom traveled across the United States, France, and Spain photographing solar power plants. In the US, he was shooting from a helicopter thanks to the skillful pilot and his fellow partner Lars Gange. As for the plants, he visited Ivanpah in California) Crescent Dune in Nevada, Les Mées in France, and Planta Solar and Gemasolar near Seville, Spain.
“Most of these solar power production sites are kind of pilot projects and first of their kind constructed within the past 15 years,” Tom said in an interview with Fortune.
“Those round, center-oriented constructions are solar thermal power plants. Thousands of mirrors called heliostats concentrate the sun’s energy to a tower that heats molten salt. The salt can reach very high temperatures and hold the heat even after the sun has gone down. The heat is used to boil water and drive a steam turbine that generates electricity in large quantities.”
As I mentioned, a lot of Tom’s work revolves around the human impact on the earth. He focuses a lot on the topic of the Anthropocene. Climate change is only one of the problems we as humans have caused, and it’s often a topic of Tom’s work.
In Tom’s photos, I see many different meanings and stories. I see the negative impact of humans on the planet, but also the ways to reverse it and help our only home get back on its feet. I see technology and art merged into one, which is something I always find intriguing. And I see a lot of gorgeous photos created at places that were never meant to have artistic appeal. This reminds me that every photo is entirely up to the photographer and what they see in it.