Time and time again, aerial photographer Tom Hegen has showcased the unexpectedly abstract aesthetic of nature. From salt ponds lining the Mediterranean Sea to tulip fields blanketing the Netherlands, Hegen employs an eclectic collection of landscapes as his subjects, with the vast sand dunes of Namibia as his most recent muse.
Shot from a helicopter, The Sand Dune Series explores the organic shapes produced by shifting sands in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site in the Namib Desert. Here, seemingly endless mounds of golden sand can reach over 300 meters in height, resulting in the stunning topography that has attracted Hegen.
Rather than simply document this landscape, however, Hegen opted to treat it as a work of art, culminating in a collection of photographs reminiscent of a portfolio of paintings. “My approach to aerial photography is similar to that of painters: I have a vision of what kind of photo I would like to get and, up in the air, I try to translate this vision into reality,” Hegen tells My Modern Met.
In The Sand Dune Series, this painting-like quality is emphasized by the photos’ lack of context. Though shot from 2,000 feet in the air, one still cannot decipher exactly what they’re looking at. To Hegen, however, this abstract ambiguity is key, as it enables us to see the world from powerful new perspectives. He reveals: “Seeing this landscape from up in the air is probably one of the most haunting ways of exploring them.”
Fortunately, thanks to The Sand Dune Series, we can all share in this emotive experience—no helicopter needed.