But one of the most potentially productive calls came from Michael T. Jones, chief technology officer of the aerial-
imaging company Keyhole, which was recently acquired by Google as part of its Google Earth initiative, a searchable image database of the Earth from above. Jones was amazed that someone had taken an aerial camera "in the same broad field that we're using [satellite imagery]" and fashioned a terrestrial camera. "As soon as I saw Graham's camera, I was entranced," he says. "I became Graham's acolyte."
Jones and Flint share an aspiration for the next phase of Gigapxl: a high-resolution survey of the world's endangered monuments. As Jones sees it, the Gigapxl images could serve as a permanent record of sorts. "So if the next Taliban blows up the next Buddhas," Jones says, "we'll have recorded it so accurately that people can reconstruct it perfectly." Jones envisions Google Earth, with its technology and storage capacity, as the eventual repository of the images: "That's our business, zooming in and out of giant pictures."
But Flint knows that he may already have devised something more profound than a crisper image. He tells the story of how the 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge-who famously showed that all four of a galloping horse's hooves are off the ground at the same time-used his camera as a scientist would. "He's somebody who used photography to create an image that was both startling and different and gave people an understanding that they didn't have before," Flint says. "We're trying to take images that people have photographed thousands of times and give people a whole new perspective of those scenes." Despite Flint's own protestations to the contrary, perhaps the 21st century has found Muybridge's corollary: the
scientist who uses his camera as an artist.
Tom Vanderbilt is an amateur photographer and a contributing editor at ID magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.