Looking At The Earth From Space With Daily Overview’s Benjamin Grant
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.
Our thoughts are with the people of Barcelona, Spain following yesterday’s gruesome attack on Las Ramblas. The beautiful city attracts visitors from all around the world, a fact made apparent as yesterday’s victims came from at least 34 countries. Plaça de Tetuan, located in the city’s Eixample district, is seen in this Overview. /// – @benjaminrgrant, source imagery: @digitalglobe
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.
I’m so stoked to be flying to London this morning, en route to my exhibition with @cccb_barcelona! Here you can see the city’s lights surrounding the River Thames, captured from the International Space Station. The city is the world’s most-visited as measured by international arrivals and is recognized for having a diverse range of cultures with more than 300 languages spoken in the Greater London area. /// – @benjaminrgrant, source imagery: @nasa
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.
Lava and ash billow out of Raung, one of the most active volcanoes on the island of Java in Indonesia. Raung towers more than 10,000 feet above sea level and was captured here during a powerful eruption in 2015 with a short-wave infrared satellite camera. The ash produced during this activity forced the closure of numerous airports on the island. /// – @benjaminrgrant, source imagery: @digitalglobe
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.
The Cuajone Mine is located near the district of Torata, in the southern range of the Peruvian Andes. The mine is best known for its copper deposits, but other materials such as silver, zinc, and molybdenum have been extracted there as well. Operations began in 1970, and by 2009 accounted for 16% of the country’s copper production. /// Created by @micahjmarshall, source imagery @digitalglobe
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.
The Sundarbans is a region that covers 10,000 square kilometres (3,900 square miles) of southern Bangladesh and a small section of Eastern India. This region is densely covered by mangrove forests and contains the largest natural reserve for the Bengal tiger. Over the past two centuries, approximately 6,700 square kilometers (2,600 square miles) of the Sundarbans’ land has been developed. /// Created by @benjaminrgrant, source imagery: @nasa