VIEWS of the earth from the air, or even space, have so long been the stuff of imagination that the real thing, when it occurred with the Apollo space programme, seemed somehow less than the creative conjuring of the sci-fi cinematographers.
Klaus Francke has addressed any imbalance with an on-going project, photographing the raw earth from the vantage point of 1500 metres up in his Cessna 172. But this series is no Google Earth - Francke has the artists eye and has deliberately chosen desolate parts of the planet: Namibia, Iceland, the deserts and salt plains of Australia (amongst others) to portray. Remote places, where a single cattle ranch might be larger than Belgium itself (Anna Creek Station, South Australia). Through Francke’s lens the planet becomes an orgy of abstract painting - a peer through a microscope to a hidden world of organic form and colour obeying some unknown law of expansion - a psychedelic explosion of technicolour phantasms. Cityscapes may well have a certain Futurist beauty, but Franck is not overly concerned with artificial interventions - although there is a brief section where human interference with Nature is observed - but the natural emissions from the hidden centres of the planet’s being. Here, sulphur and volcanic eruptions colour the surface; heat and steam create vivid oasis-like outposts in the midst of frozen wastes, and innumerable natural ores and chemical fusions spill out to colour rocks and plains with a kaleidoscope of vivid hues.
From the air, the natural Earth (and there is more left untouched than might be imagined) appears an alien place and it is easy to agree with Albert Einstein who, contemplating Nature, noted it provoked a ‘genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism’. To complement Francke’s extraordinary images there is a text by Alexander Smoltczyk, an award winning contributor to GEO an Der Spiegel. Each photograph is not only identified and located, but has an explanation of the natural phenomenon that creates such an arresting visual appearance. This is a book for meditation, for it provides a link to the primeval memories that stir within most thinking individuals - and the sense of the vast timescale involved in the evolution of planet Earth is never more acute than when contemplating these pictures. A quite beautiful collection presented at a very high standard by the German house of Bucher.