Issue 09, July 2008
homepage > Minoan Crete from above: Marilyn Bridges' aerial photography exhibition in New York City

Minoan Crete from above: Marilyn Bridges'
aerial photography exhibition in New York City

The country house at Chamaizi, southeastern view © Marilyn Bridges

Interview by Leda Bouzali


It was thus that they were captured by the American photographer Marilyn Bridges, who flew over Crete on light aircraft and took aerial photographs of the archaeological sites.

Her spectacular black-and-white photographs were presented in the Olympic Tower Atrium, New York, from 3 March to 16 April 2008, concurrently with the Onassis Cultural Centre's major exhibition ‘From the Land of the Labyrinth: Minoan Crete, 3000-1100 BC.'

The Minoan palatial complexes of Knossos, Faistos, Zakros and Malia, the palatial villa of Haghia Triada, the prehistoric towns of Mochlos, Pseira and Gournia, the port of Kommos and the hilltop country house at Chamaizi are captured by Bridges' lens in minute detail. Through her photographs, the viewer can perceive the spatial scale of Minoan Crete, as well as the extent of the archaeological excavations that have taken place.

For several years, Marilyn Bridges has specialised in ground and aerial photography of important archaeological sites around the globe. Her photographs have been published in eight books, including Markings: Aerial Views of Sacred Landscapes (Aperture, 1986), Planet Peru: An Aerial Journey Through a Timeless Land (Aperture, 1991), Egypt: Antiquities from Above (Little, Brown & Co., 1996), This Land is Your Land (Aperture, 1997), Flights Through Time (Lodima Press, 2007).

The small island of Pseira, southeastern coast © Marilyn Bridges
The small island of Pseira, southeastern coast © Marilyn Bridges

Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at over three hundred museums and art galleries, including the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Her photographs have also appeared in such major periodicals as Life, Vanity Fair, and The New York Times. Bridges is a licensed pilot and a Fellow of the Explorers Club. She received an MFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and the 2003 Wings Trust Award for Courage and Artistic Excellence. 

Marilyn Bridges recently spoke to ΑΩ about her exhibition at the Onassis Cultural Centre of the affiliated Onassis Foundation (USA) in New York:

How many photographs, and according to what criteria, did you select for your exhibition at the affiliated Onassis Foundation?

I selected ten photographs and made them into large fine-art exhibition prints. We wanted photographs of sites that would best complement the superb accompanying exhibition of artifacts, From the Land of the Labrinth, Minoan Crete 3000-1100 BC.

When were these photographs taken?

I made these photos in late summer 2007. I always try to take advantage of the best lighting conditions for a certain site. Sometimes I need the raking light of very early morning, other times direct overhead light works best. Photographing in black and white is like painting with light.

View of the Phaistos Palace © Marilyn Bridges
View of the Phaistos Palace © Marilyn Bridges

From what altitude did you take these photographs?

I prefer to fly from 500 to 1000 feet up. In photographs using a long lens from that height, the viewer can feel intimate with the subject, and at the same time see the larger context. One can imagine stepping into the images and exploring the sites.

How did you study your subject before you visited Crete?

It took weeks of research before I actually went up in the air. I started with Schoder’s pioneering book, Wings Over Hellas, and studied the balloon photographs and site plans in Myers’ Aerial Atlas of Ancient Crete. I also used lots of ground photographs and site plans, mostly published online, and contoured satellite images from Google Earth. I visited all the places on the ground too, before planning the aerial photos.

What was the feeling you had when you saw these sites, and you wished to convey it through your photographs?

While flying over Crete, I felt a longing for the past. I wanted to represent these ancient sites with dignity, to show their grandeur within the natural landscape. This can only be done by making aerial photographs with a certain sensitivity. I view these antiquities with awe and respect for the people who made them. I hope my work encourages others to value and protect these ancient sites.

The Knossos Palace at dawn © Marilyn Bridges
The Knossos Palace at dawn © Marilyn Bridges

Have these photographs been published?

Not yet, but I’d like to include them in a book, along with many other wonderful Greek sites I’ve photographed in a similar way. I’m looking for a publisher.

Do you intend to continue your work in Greece?

I hope to do more, Greece has so much to offer.

- top of page -
Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation | Tel. +30 210 3713000 | Fax. +30 210 3713013 | Email: