Photo Essays

Photography at Great Heights

by Mostafa Heddaya on June 19, 2013

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Michael Gabel, “10,068″ (Mt. Baldy, CA)

During a particularly arduous training climb on California’s Mt. Baldy, Los Angeles–based creative director and photographer Michael Gabel had an epiphany about the link between an image and the altitude at which it was taken. “I was set on 6,000 vertical feet in six miles and something clicked about tagging photos with the elevation,” he recently explained to Hyperallergic, adding that this solved a key problem: “As a climber and a hiker I love using topographical maps, and naming your photographs is forced and kind of annoying.”

Just as young Ansel Adams’s reverence for the dramatic surroundings of his childhood home on Baker Beach in San Francisco gave rise to medium-format virtuosity, landscape photography has been something of a national artform. But Gabel’s decision to publish this series of photographs on a dedicated Tumblr blog, titled Elevated Photography, came with a commitment to present only the elevation — a single number — as the sole piece of data for each image. It’s an intriguing practice, one that merges the numerical fixation of conceptual artists like On Kawara with an idiosyncratic view of the identity of the landscape recalling the preoccupations of land art. It also helps that the photographs themselves are consistently charismatic.

With Gabel’s permission, we’ve reproduced below the series, shot between 2011 and 2013, along with the titular altitude and additional parenthetical notes on the circumstances of the shot and any relevant details on the landscape.

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Michael Gabel, “3,379″ (Bandipur, Nepal) (Glimpsing the Himalayas during monsoon season is a rare and auspicious occurrence)

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Michael Gabel, “5,349″ (Mt. Um Dami, Jordan) (Unknown climber on an unknown route)

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Michael Gabel, “6,040″ (Wadi Rum, Jordan) (Inspiration for T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom)

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Michael Gabel, “2,905″ (Death Valley, CA)

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Michael Gabel, “3,580″ (Eureka Dunes, CA) (At certain times of day, these dunes sing)

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Michael Gabel, “4,027″ (Bandipur, Nepal)

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Michael Gabel, “-282″ (Badwater Basin, CA)

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Michael Gabel, “10″ (Stovepipe Wells, CA)

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Michael Gabel, “30,000″ (Himalayas, Nepal) (Mountain flight over Everest)

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