Where would we be without a map? This basic aerial view has been a means of navigation for centuries, however, there was a time when the birds eye view didn’t exist and all we knew was what we saw in front of us, at street level. We have occupied and dominated ground level since the birth of man but it wasn’t until the 19th century that our field of view expanded to the skies.
The birds eye view is now ingrained into contemporary visual culture and we expect to be able to see almost every corner of our world from this angle. Technologies such as Google Earth has made this possible, although there is a sense that it has become an interference in our privacy.
For many tourists, gaining an aerial view of a new city is at the top of the ‘to do list’. There is a sense of being able to justify the city, select further places you want to visit and gather a sense of the city’s scale. The first structure that made these panoramic views accessible was the Eiffel Tower built in 1887. At first, Parisian people hated the humungous metal structure, however, once they saw how the tourists flocked to see Paris from this angle the structure became the icon of the city.
When we think of a city nowadays, the iconography will most likely involve skyscrapers. They have become a symbol of our corporative society, fuelled by business, money and power. In my mind, the taller the building the more powerful its inhabitants are and consequently appear untouchable to those who do not live or work in these buildings.
Despite this, the recent social media trend, ‘Rooftopping’ has taken a stance against the association we make of skyscrapers with corporate culture.
Tom Ryaboi has shifted the hierarchical society of the city in this image. Sitting on a skyscraper has placed him in a position of authority over the business men and women of the building and there is also a sense of rebellion in the choice of footwear. It is highly likely a pair of distressed converse would never be seen in a corporate building like this one.
Our reliance on the aerial view has demonstrated our never ending search for knowledge and joy of creating images and memories. We may feel insignificant within society but being allowed to view the world from a higher platform can make us feel important and valuable.