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About Tom HegenRound salt ponds, mighty dams, and furrowed forests – the relationship between man and nature is at the heart of Tom Hegen’s work. He entrances us with harmonious symmetry and captivating colors, while using a unique perspective to examine our influence on the planet. Taking to the sky in hot air balloons, helicopters, and prop planes, or using a multicopter drone he constructed to suit his
BACKGROUND INFORMATIONRound salt ponds, mighty dams, and furrowed forests – the relationship between man and nature is at the heart of Tom Hegen’s work. He entrances us with harmonious symmetry and captivating colors, while using a unique perspective to examine our influence on the planet. Taking to the sky in hot air balloons, helicopters, and prop planes, or using a multicopter drone he constructed to suit his photographic needs, Hegen shows us the world from above.
To Hegen, aerial photography is the only possible medium that can simultaneously portray our civilization and pay tribute to our planet. From this vertical viewpoint, our eyes recognize a soothing order to the chaos. Subsequently, we see that we are also part of this fascinating planet. Hegen teaches us a new way of seeing, following in the footsteps of aerial photography pioneer Georg Gerster, who wrote: “Height provides an overview, and an overview facilitates insight, while insight generates consideration – perhaps.”
The clear lines and right angles in Hegen’s artworks guide our gaze. On the compositions, the artist says: “I always shoot straight down with no perspective. This gives the pictures a high degree of abstraction and blurs the lines between photography and painting.”
This is evident in Salt Series. At first glance, we are uncertain exactly what we are seeing. Then it gradually becomes clearer these are salt evaporation ponds photographed from above and captured in atmospheric compositions. In the series, Tom Hegen shows us places where the boundary between manmade and naturally-formed landscapes intersect. As the water evaporates in the ponds, microorganisms remain, emanating unreal colors.
Tom Hegen shows us the beauty of the earth and also how people have shaped it. This is the common thread that unites all of the works in his oeuvre. Hegen reflects on how mankind interferes with nature, showing us the traces we leave behind. And yet he does this in the most seductive of ways: with beauty, with appealing symmetry, and radiant colors. He challenges us to reflect on what we see.
VITATom Hegen was born in 1991 in Königsbrunn, Bavaria. He studied graphic design at the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences. Today he lives in Augsburg and works internationally. Since 2015 he has dedicated his artistic endeavors to aerial photography projects. His interest in the bird's-eye view was ignited after a long-distance flight from New Zealand to Germany, where he sat in the aisle seat and admired the views from above. His works focus on the environmental impact of man and the traces left behind while creating habitats. His first illustrated book "Habitat" was published in 2018. Hegen's works have received distinguished creative awards, such as the Red Dot Design Award, the German Design Award, and the International Photography Award.
INTERVIEWPicasso once said, “You don’t make art, you find it.“ Where do you find your art?
By looking at the world from a bird’s eye view. During this process I consider myself an observer of a sculpted environment rather than an artist. The art I photograph was created by people who, presumably, did not deliberately realize their design. Cities, fields, roads, forests – almost everything has been planned or allotted by someone, thus influencing the landscape. My work is similar to that of a curator, but my focus is on the surface of the earth.
From concept to creation: How do you approach your work?
The subject always comes first. I am particularly interested in the relationship between man and nature, and, furthermore, how we shape the environment through the extraction of resources and our daily interaction with the earth.
I always work in series and with a strong thematic reference. Then begins the research and planning phase. Most of my photo projects are very elaborate in their preparation. I look for the right locations, then find out how I can best reach them and photograph them from above. I usually resort to small airplanes, helicopters, and even drones. The focus is not on the technology, but on the result. Then, I compose a series of roughly 10 to 20 images, offering a visual impression of the place.
What’s your favorite book?
I’ve never read a book twice so I can’t name a favorite book that I turn to over and over again. That said, I am interested in non-fiction books like those by Yuval Noah Harari. I also enjoy well designed photography books.
Which artist would you like to have coffee with and what would you talk about?
I would love to visit Anselm Kiefer's studio in the south of France. The site is a work of art in and of itself and the utterly unconventional design of the area seems almost otherworldly! We would walk through the cellar corridors and talk about the effect art has on people.
How did you develop an interest in art?
After my secondary school education, I studied communication design. It's a design course that combines all the disciplines from visual communication but is geared more towards the application of design in everyday use. Photography was always a hobby of mine and great passion beyond my studies. After my studies I began working as a designer at a creative agency. During this time, however, I was feeling an urge to work independently on self-determined topics.
After a few months I quit the job and ventured into self-employment. My aerial photography progressed a lot during this period, and I was working on my first book publication. This experience really kick-started my career.
Who in your life influences you the most?
My partner I suppose. When I’m not traveling or in the studio, I spend most of my time with her. Professionally, she operates in an entirely different universe than I, allowing her to provide unbiased opinions of my work. We don’t talk too much about art or photography though. Aside from her influence, I share a studio with architects. I've always found architecture and architects' approach to project development intriguing, so I really appreciate the interaction.
If you had a time machine, where would you go?
I’m curious to see what the world looks like in 5,000 years. Will humans still exist? If so, in what condition will the earth be? In the last 10,000 years, mankind has progressed considerably. The Industrial Revolution accelerated this development, and it’s practically coming to a head with the advent of digitization. I often ask myself whether we're destroying our own livelihood with all the technical achievements and endless greed for possessions and power.
What is your greatest passion, aside from art?
I like anything that has to do with fresh air and movement. But I also love working on handcrafted projects. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a carpenter. It's rewarding when you can see a physical result of your hard work.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I’m sifting through countless photographs from a big trip I took last year to the United States of America. I’m also working on a new book. 2022 will be an eventful year.