Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in GREAT PLAINS QUARTERLY 25:4 (Fall 2005). Copyright © 2005 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


When acclaimed photo historian Beaumont Newhall published the fourth edition of The History of Photography in 1964, he included (in a chapter titled "The Quest of Form") an aerial photograph, made by a Royal Air Force photographer, that showed German forces plowing up a Libyan airfield to render it useless for advancing allied forces. This strange, abstract image, consisting largely of linear plowed patterns, though by no means the first example of a photograph made from an airplane, was most likely included in this largely aesthetic tracing of the medium's history as an illustration of the visual power potently available in images made from the air.