The Elevated Eye Now Open at Forest Lawn Museum

There’s very little I like about flying but I do enjoy looking out the window and seeing the tiny, tiny earth below. The patchwork fields, the twinkling lights, the ever-changing landscape…the world looks so different when viewed from above. Recently, I headed to the Forest Lawn Museum to check out its latest exhibit The Elevated Eye: Aerial Photography Past and Present and was lucky enough to recreate that same enjoyment without having to leave the ground.

Curated by Forest Lawn Museum’s director, James Fishburne, The Elevated Eye features almost 150 images that date from the 19th century to the present. The exhibiton came about when Dr. Fishburne was looking through the museum archive and came upon a cache of aerial images of the various Forest Lawn locations. From here an idea was born and thanks to contributions from numerous LA institutions from the Huntington Library to The Getty an impressive overview of aerial photography has been assembled.

The Elevated Eye, which runs through March 8, 2020, features two main exhibition spaces. In the first, you will learn all about the history of aerial photography through various images including the earliest aerial photos produced by balloonists over Europe. Before the days of modern air travel photographers used several innovative means of obtaining aerial images including strapping cameras to pigeons. If that sounds too far fetched to you I present exhibit A.

Isn’t that one of the craziest things you’ve ever seen? And if you think these guys weren’t able to take viable photos you’d be wrong as the exhibit contains an image produced by these very birds. Of course, you’ll need to go to the museum to see it for yourself.

Photography isn’t all fun and games and the innovation of aerial images allowed viewers to get a clear view of important news stories such as the destruction of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.

Aerial photography also gives glimpses into progress and there are several images of Los Angeles that provide first hand accounts of the rapid growth of the city. I’m particularly partial to the above image of the construction of Griffith Observatory.

And we can’t forget the inspiration for the exhibition. Several images from Dr. Fishburne’s initial discovery in the archive are included. These 20th century images not only provide an aerial view of the various Forest Lawn properties but also a fascinating glimpse into Southern California before, during and after the war years.

From the past we zoom right into the present in the second exhibition space. This area contains aerial images from various contemporary artists and provides a fascinating glimpse into the modern world.

Thanks to satellites, drones and other technological innovations we are able see our world as we’ve never seen it before. The above shows the Chicago shore of Lake Michigan in two very different seasons – summer and winter. Looking at the photos makes me so happy I visited during the summer months!

And who would have thought Pershing Square could look so fascinating? This drone image by artist Chen Ming gives an entirely different perspective of the much maligned downtown park. This view almost makes me like the place. Almost.

Perhaps the most impressive innovation in aerial photography is that which allows us to view images from space. Thanks to satellites (which are also on view) we can view images that are literally out of this world. Could the early balloonists have ever imagined their photographic technique would come this far?

The Elevated Eye: Aerial Photography Past and Present is a unique exhibition that provides a fascinating perspective on how we view our world. Forest Lawn Museum may not be the first place that comes to mind when considering LA cultural institutions but in recent years it has produced some truly inspired exhibitions. Each time I visit I’m more and more impressed and The Elevated Eye ranks as one of my favorite exhibitions across all institutions this year.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.