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May 22, 2018

Looking At The Earth From Space With Daily Overview’s Benjamin Grant

Text by Zaral Shah

The space enthusiast’s work primarily focuses on the places and moments where human activity — for better or for worse — has shaped the landscape

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Having formerly worked at a consulting firm in New York City, he now spearheads Daily Overview – a project that through an array of mesmerising satellite imagery shows the effect that we as human beings are having on planet Earth. Founder Benjamin Grant has always harboured a penchant for the arts, and when he stumbled upon the concept of the Overview Effect and knew that he could access these images, it was his instinct to compose the frames like that of a painting – adding an artistic element to them.

As someone who’s also always been interested in space, he looks forward to the day when he (all six foot five of him) can get onto a spaceship and make his way into outer space. He strongly believes that no video, virtual reality or photograph could ever replicate the experience of seeing the world from – and floating in – outer space.

Indulging in a quick chat with Grant, Verve discovers more about the man behind the frames and what it takes to drive a project as intriguing, informative and visually spellbinding as Daily Overview.

What made you want to start Daily Overview?
About four and a half years ago, I learnt about the overview effect from a video that was sent to me by a friend, and what I saw was something I had never really seen before. They weren’t only images of the Earth in all its beauty; there were also interviews with astronauts who had spent significant time in outer space. They spoke about how what they had seen had forever changed them as human beings. They spoke about recognising how gradual the planet is, how interconnected everything is, and how we needed to protect the planet. And when I learned about this idea – the overview effect – it really stuck with me. A few months later, I discovered that I had the ability to get access to these high-resolution satellite images. I connected the dots and realised that I could provide this overview perspective for the rest of us who haven’t been to outer space.

What about the project really motivates you?  
I’m interested in environmental issues, and looking at places from this perspective has led me to discover that what we think about climate change and global warming lacks a visual narrative to go with it. We can write about it and make graphs and charts, but to actually look at it being transformed and changing so quickly is very powerful. And I think if I’m able to give that story something that stays in people’s minds longer and start a conversation, then honestly, that’s one of the reason’s the project has been as successful as it has.

What are most interesting things you’ve come across?
I’ve learnt thousands of things. I’ve had to do research and figure out what I was seeing and explain concepts that I had no idea about – like where we get our energy from, where we get our food from and how certain things are built. Curiosity has led to so much more knowledge. Visually speaking, what’s so fascinating about the project to me is that there are many places that I capture – like shipping containers and the urban planning in certain cities – which when you’re on ground level you have absolutely no idea how amazing it might look from up there. That, I think is one of the most powerful elements of the project. Something that may seem kind of boring or simple from the ground, when you look at it from above, it’s entirely new and complex, and you get a whole new understanding of it. And these are just a few examples, the images offer a new way of seeing everything!

When not working, you are?
It’s usually in line with my interest and love for art and other forms of photography. I love being outside in nature, exercising and riding my bicycle. I live in San Francisco, where I have access to some of the most beautiful scenery and landscapes, and so trying to be healthy and connected to the natural world is certainly an interest. There’s travel as well – this project has brought me to a lot of different places around the world. These images can give you a sense of what’s going on from above, but nothing can actually replicate the experience, of being there on the ground and getting to observe new cultures and meet new people.

What are you looking forward to in the future?
This year, I’m trying to work with other creators and brands and do as many collaborations as possible. I have access to some pretty incredible imagery and I’m curious to see what happens when combined with the creative incredibility of some other people, it gets in front of larger audiences. That’s my focus for 2018. To build on the platform that already exists.

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