The Photography of George Steinmetz

Artsology had the pleasure of spending time with photographer George Steinmetz, whose photographs have been published by National Geographic and GEO Magazines, won multiple awards, and is represented by Anastasia Gallery in New York. For the past 25 years, Mr. Steinmetz has been traveling the world, photographing remote deserts, obscure cultures, and capturing the mysteries of science and technology with his camera.

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However, there's one aspect to his approach of taking pictures that is quite distinctive: he often takes his pictures while flying in a motorized paraglider (seen below). This aircraft allows him to discover and photograph views of the natural beauty of the earth from vantage points unavailable to those on the ground.

Photographer George Steinmetz in his paraglider

Mr. Steinmetz is quick to point out that "I'm a photographer who flies, not a pilot who takes pictures." He first got interested in photography at age 21 while hitch-hiking across the African continent for two and a half years. He says, "It was a life changing experience for me, and a place where I decided to take up photography to document the amazing areas I was exploring. On that trip I dreamt of how amazing it would be to fly over Africa's vast landscapes, and some twenty years later my dream came true when I talked National Geographic into financing a portfolio of aerial photos." He explained that trying to photograph from a small plane was frustrating as it went too fast and couldn't go as low as he wanted to go. He eventually settled on this paraglider (below left), which allowed him to control his height, speed, and viewpoints exactly as he wanted to get the images he was looking to capture. The image below right is Salt works, Teguidda-n-Tessoumt, Niger, 1997. Since it is so abstract, it helps to have a little backstory: Steinmetz explains that the clay-lined pools hold briny water that slowly evaporates, yielding salt solids that workers truck to southern Niger and Nigeria, where the minerals are given to livestock. If you look closely, you can see a couple of these workers, which helps give a sense of scale.

Photographer George Steinmetz in his paraglider, alongside his aerial photograph of salt works in Africa

We're barely able to scratch the surface of the extraordinary career of George Steinmetz, but the video here gives you a great overview of his project "Desert Air." You can also learn more at his website at

Steinmetz has a fascinating iPad app titled Above & Beyond: George Steinmetz, which not only shows you more of his stunning photographs, but also takes you behind the scenes as he narrates the stories behind each picture. These stories include descriptions of police chases, windstorms, equipment malfunctions and rocky landings that were part of the adventure of capturing these images. The app also has videos and interactive graphics that give you more information about the capabilities of his paraglider and how he navigates it while taking photographs.

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