Details: I'm glad to hear that you considered that flying with no doors might be crazy.
Michael Light: Well, of course, the safest way for us to lead our lives is to be in a suburban tract home and stay inside. But, like anything else, if you're prudent and respectful of the limitations of your tools and of the power of the medium in which you're working—in my case, air and the landscape and the topography... I'm hopefully in this for the long haul.
Details: What have you learned about the United States, over the years, through this work?
Michael Light: That there's pretty much nothing left that's untouched. You can call the whole world a human park—that's one way to look at it—or you can call it a garden that we are learning how to till and how to cultivate. An aerial view is relentlessly revealing.
Details: Some of your images of massive mines look like wounds or scars.
Michael Light: I almost think of it as a kind of glyphics, a writing on the land that we do. A road is a sentence, a road is a language. The more I see, and the older I get, I try not to be utterly condemnatory of human endeavor. We're magical beings. We're capable of extraordinary things. Our downfall is that we don't tend to take responsibility for what we so extraordinarily do. That's really the root of it, right there. But I want these pictures to be as much love letters as they are condemnations. And of course, as an artist, I don't want to lecture people. I want to seduce people. I want to give them a reason to look.
Details: Do you ever have corporate flacks or government officials angry at you for flying over certain places?
Michael Light: After 9/11, the FAA issued a directive to pilots saying, "You are not to fly over installations of national importance: bridges, nuclear power plants," all the logical things. But it's very vaguely worded, and it says things like, "You're not to loiter." Now, am I going to be so bold as to "loiter" aerially over a nuclear power plant? Absolutely not. I would expect and hope that, in the largest installations, they've got some antiaircraft guns on the ground ready to knock whatever may be coming in out of the sky. I don't want to step on anybody's toes. Am I hangin' out over the Golden Gate Bridge? I'm not.
However, a coal mine—I don't think that's national infrastructure. Nor do I think a coal mine is going to get damaged by a 1,000-pound aircraft smashing into it. It's just a hole in the ground. There are many areas that are prohibited and restricted airspaces throughout the country, mostly having to do with military installations. Any pilot who wants to keep his or her license stays the hell away from those restricted and prohibited and military areas. But the vast majority of territory is not restricted in any way. It's one of the great things about this country.
Details: By the way, do you have a name for the plane?
Michael Light: I do. The plane's name is Zoe, which I believe is Greek for "life."
Aerial Photos From LA Day/LA Night by Michael Light
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