Bleak and surreal: Photographer turns satellite images into open-source art

From the air, the landscape of Texas’ vast feedlots and oil fields is by turns bleak and surreal. Photographer Mishka Henner aimed to capture the contrasts and intense colors of these landscapes in a collection of work titled ‘Feedlots.’ By stitching together hundreds of satellite images, he created large, detailed prints documenting the dynamism of these locations – earth tones clashing with the violent greens and reds of feedlot waste.

Image by Mishka Henner.
Image by Mishka Henner.
Image by Mishka Henner.

‘Feedlots’ is entirely composed using satellite images which are freely available for public use. As such, Henner’s work is part of a wider trend of ‘curated’ works created from public sources like Google Earth, Street View and ‘found’ images. Some such projects are curiosity-driven endeavors that explore the boundaries of these sources. Others, like Henner’s work, are inspired in part by the accidental beauty of projects like the crowd-sourced Stratocam.

Even other photographers’ works are fair game, as inย Wired’s tongue-in-cheek photo essay created from the massive Tokyo panorama we posted a few weeks ago. Work like this exists in an interesting space – one in which the concept of ‘authorship’ is fascinatingly elastic. What do you make of it? Let us know in the comments.ย 

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“Image by…”

Those images were lifted from satellite photos!

“Manipulated, Altered, Masticated and Spit Images by…” is a better by line.



Assuming he gets the images from Google Earth, I wonder how he gets around their “Restrictions on Use.”


If I didn’t shoot it, I’m not using it, period. No way I’d use someone elses work to call my own art- no matter how you spin it. These are new images, there’s an infringement on the craft that being a curator has been in the past- it seems to be a modern curse to trample on anything good of the past.

No thanks.


There’s a strange beauty to these images. Looking at them I was wondering if the dark specks of ant-like details were cattle and indeed they are. Watch the trailer linked to Vimeo from this artist’s site – it’s something of an eye opener.

I sincerely hope there aren’t any sort of near-equivalents to these facilities in the UK. It’s a dystopian image of factory farming that’s real in the here-and-now. The news report with its cheery commentary is all the more sinister for its breeziness.

I like a nice rare steak with the best of them, but my appetite is not exactly whetted by this. Deeply disturbing.

I think this is art and very significant art at that.

b craw

This does pose a question as to the boundary of “curation” and production/composition. That (in the third image?) it is a manipulation or collage of the source satellite imagery places it closer, in the most obvious sense, to a constructive/creative product. The aesthetics here, abstractly compelling as they are, are in ironic contrast to the ugly reality of these sites. But, I’m guessing in a few hours, there will be a s***storm of comments continuing the already forwarded notion of this not being photographic art because the artist did not create the exposures themselves. First thing in the morning (PST), I’m going to put on my rain suit.

WT Jones

Nothing interesting here in my opinion. You have seen one arial photo, you have seen them all really.


Yeah, Times New Roman is more where it’s at.


Interesting scenes irrespective of the aesthetic qualities.
As regards the comment on a aerial photographs, I can only recommend that you have a look at Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s book Earth from above…


I prefer Sonoran Sans Serif ๐Ÿ™‚


Hmmm. 3rd image: is it a burger factory from Food Inc? ๐Ÿ˜€


I don’t understand how this is photography on the so called photographer’s part.

More like graphic tweaker.


“Photographie” = Painting with light. These more than pass muster as photographs being – as they are – works of art made of light images captured with cameras.


If you had the chance to go to the space with a camera, you would get the very same flattened view to choose from. So in other words: the reality from that vantage point is already two dimensional, just like a photograph. So satellite photography is not about transfering a three dimential world to two dimensions. it is always working with a two dimentional world.
i think your criticism is more valid for the guy who reframes google street view. That’s indeed retaking a photograph…



Not the same, one would be your own work and one would be someone elses. The view has nothing to do with it. These days its so popular to infringe on others work as ones “right” to do so- using spin and propaganda to justify stealing.

There has to be clear cut boundaries, something the modern generations have trouble adhering too.

No thanks.


“…is entirely composed, using satellite images, which are freely available for public use.”


If I like a picture, I’ll just lift the original from Google or NASA.



Feel free.


provided that you can find it!
you have a rather large database to choose from…
of course you can also find something more appealing during the process!

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