Aerial Photos of Archaeological Sites on Exhibit at State Museum

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By Arizona State Museum, February 14, 2014

"From Above: Images of a Storied Land," runs through Sept. 20.

Photo courtesy of Adriel Heisey

Photo courtesy of Adriel Heisey

Photographer Adriel Heisey captures images of historic landscapes and archaeological sites from above. (Photo courtesy of Heisey)

Photographer Adriel Heisey captures images of historic landscapes and archaeological sites from above. (Photo courtesy of Heisey)

"Pueblo Room Blocks in Snow, Puye Pueblo, Santa Clara Indian Reservation, 2001." (Photo by Heisey)

"Pueblo Room Blocks in Snow, Puye Pueblo, Santa Clara Indian Reservation, 2001." (Photo by Heisey)

What do you get when you mix a person who has daredevil tendencies with a talent for photography, a head for engineering, a love of archaeology, and the drive to earn a pilot's license at the age of 16?

You get Adriel Heisey.

Heisey's aerial photographs of historic landscapes and archaeological sites are the subject of a traveling exhibit now featured at the Arizona State Museum on the University of Arizona campus.

"From Above: Images of a Storied Land," runs through Sept. 20.

Archaeology is essentially a terrestrial occupation, conducted at eye level, yet archaeologists have always appreciated the advantage of an elevated view of their excavation sites, and aerial shots have been sought after since the mid-1800s.

Fast forward through the rapid evolution of both flying contraptions and image-capturing technologies, and you arrive at Heisey, whose hand-built, fixed-wing flying machines are a boon to archaeologists.

Over the decades, Heisey has formed lasting relationships with archaeologists and preservation agencies on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border, shooting images of their sites from overhead.

The exhibit "From Above" is the result of a working partnership with Archaeology Southwest, a Tucson-based conservation nonprofit organization.

Heisey's photographs accomplish documentary and scientific purposes, in addition to being strikingly beautiful, notes exhibit co-curator Bill Doelle, president of Archaeology Southwest.

"As an archaeologist, I hope that the scientific content in these images comes through. ... However, these photographs are not primarily about science. They elegantly reveal the diversity of the human relationship with the Earth," he said.

"From Above" features 60 large-format aerial photographs of historical landscapes across the Southwest.

Subtleties in the images, such as footprints in freshly fallen snow, illustrate relationships among time, change, life and landscape.

"I find great satisfaction in using technology to heighten awareness and appreciation," said Heisey, who captured the images from the open seat of his experimental Kolb TwinStar airplane. "(Ancient) ruins seem delicate, passive, vulnerable, and unrecoverable. ... This experience can increase our apprehension of their place in the landscape."

Heisey's aerial photographs have been featured in numerous publications, including Arizona Highways, New Mexico Magazine, National Geographic, American Photo, Photo Life, Whole Earth, Journal of the Southwest, and Nature Conservancy.

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