The Daily Overview publishes photos from high up above, showcasing places on Earth from a new and fresh vantage point. What gave you this idea and how did this project begin?
Our project was inspired, and derives its name, from an idea known as the Overview Effect. This term refers to the sensation astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole. They have the chance to appreciate our home in its entirety, to reflect on its beauty and its fragility all at once. That’s the cognitive shift that we hope to inspire. Even though we could never replicate the awe-inspiring meteorological activity or variations in light that an astronaut experiences, we think the Overviews (what we’ve called the images) provide a complementary, fresh perspective about who we are as a human race and the impact that we have on our planet.
I started capturing the Overviews last December and only shared them with friends and co-workers at first. The feedback I got was really positive and a close friend encouraged me to build a website. I decided that I would post one Overview each day, and “Daily Overview” was born.
The Overview images are captured using Apple Maps satellite imagery courtesy of Digital Globe. What inspires you to choose each separate place?
Every Overview starts with a thought experiment. We consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea.
What is the process like in choosing a location, finding the satellite image, and editing it to share?
The upfront research is usually what requires the most time. Sometimes you get lucky and the location that you explore powerfully conveys the idea you had in mind. On the other hand, you can find yourself in the middle of a five-hour search to locate a sawmill or you look all day to find a palm oil plantation that’s not obscured by clouds (both true stories). Regardless, the moment when you discover a place that powerfully captures your idea, it’s worth it, no matter how long the search took.
We try to keep the selection of images fresh, covering as many different subjects and locations as possible. Additionally, as the project has progressed we’ve realized the power of adapting the daily post to correspond with important current events. For example, recently there were two ominous reports released about the collapse of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet. We think it’s a lot easier to believe that sea levels can rise 10 feet once you see a 30-mile wide piece of ice broken off into the ocean.
You always share the images with a caption with information regarding the location. How important is this for your overall effect?
I think it’s essential to the project. We strive to make each Overview visually pleasing; however, we hope our audience will take the time to go beyond the aesthetics and truly consider that these are real images that contain unnatural things. I hope that they lean closer to the screen or wall and contemplate the implications of what they’re seeing. That’s where the factual information and the opportunity to learn comes in. Additionally, you probably noticed that we post a link with the geo-coordinates of each Overview as well to encourage people to check it out and explore the area themselves.
One thing I love about Daily Overview is that it showcases locations filled with chaos and mess as orderly, structured, and beautiful. Can you think of one image that really had an impact on your audience, or one location you found that changed things for you as a viewer?
Absolutely, your thoughts are very much in line with what we’re hoping to accomplish with the project. In regards to human activity, I would have to say one of the most powerful Overviews for me is the Dadaab Refuge Camp in Kenya, the largest refugee camp in the world (posted on February 7th). The Overview vantage point makes it possible to get some sense of the scale of what’s going on there and offers an entirely different perspective than what’d you see at ground level. Additionally, some of the images of port cargo terminals are my favorites, both for their beauty as well as their ability to showcase these vast infrastructures of modern complexity and organization.
The Daily Overview is run by Benjamin Grant. Follow the project on Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook.
I sure don’t ever want to live in Killeen, Texas. Fascinating series.