On Board with Military Pilots, Terry Evans Captures the Prairie from the Sky

For eight years, photographer Terry Evans fixed his lens upon the untouched prairies of Kansas, always shooting from a waist-high distance—until he came across an image that drastically altered his perspective (in the most literal way).

“The picture was taken on an abandoned Pacific island atomic bomb test site,” he said of the aerial photograph that he became inspired by. “It was of a large concrete mound, covering nuclear trash, with a red circle painted around the top and a red cylinder sticking out of the middle. [The photographer who took the image] said that to U.S. soldiers flying over this site, the mound looked like a woman’s breast. I remembered an aerial view of mine of the unploughed Konza Prairie, near Manhattan, Kansas, in which the prairie hills looked like a woman’s breast. Suddenly, I realized that the inhabited prairie was part of the body of prairie and that I could not understand prairie if I didn’t look at the whole of it.” From there, Evans began a five-year endeavor, shooting from airplanes with the aid of two military pilots. “The pilots became my dance partners,” he said. “We learned how to dance together so that by movement of my hand, [one] would know how to bank the plane. When I had to change film, [the other] would notice and would circle the location until I was ready to proceed.”

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