Driven by curiosity, imagination, and a love for design, a Lebanese designer has created a photographic alphabet using Lebanon’s geography.
The Google Earth Alphabet (GEA) project started as a simple concept: a bird’s-eye view of the landscape with the goal of better understanding the different geological, urban, and natural makeup of the country.
In a year’s time, Patrick Semaan cultivated this idea and expanded it to encompass 10,452 square kilometers — Lebanon’s total area.
Armed with Google Earth and a keen eye, Semaan scanned Lebanon’s terrain for a total of 130 hours to identify and isolate shapes that resemble the letters of the alphabet, saving the coordinates and a picture of each letter he’d find.
As for the favorite letter for Semaan to find in the process, it was the letter B, which he distinguished in the snowy heights of the village of Yammoune in the Baalbek District.
“The fact that I am able to roam the planet, zoom in from space from 60,000km altitude, onto a snow-covered patch and see a letter drawn there waiting to be found, only on a particular day of the winter season… I mean if I go one day forward in the archive timeline or one day backwards, there is no B,” he tells The961.
Although doing the GEA over Lebanon was particularly interesting due to its unique geography, it was not the first country that Semaan has completed this project in.
His first completed alphabet was over Kuwait, and he then did a run over Dubai before starting with Lebanon.
Lebanon was in particular challenging for him and that was mainly due to the changing of seasons. This is how he explains it:
“The challenging yet interesting feature about Lebanon’s geology is that with every season the terrains look completely different. A canvas in every season. The letter B for example would not be visible in summer, nor winter, only in spring with most ice from that area has melted, leaving a beautiful zebra-like pattern, and a precious letter B for me to find.”
“Jumping between seasons is made possible via Google Earth’s imagery history featuring, allowing to view the terrain from different past dates, going as far back as 10 years,” he adds.
As to what motivates the multi-disciplinary visual designer: “I love anything design and have a strong appreciation for our planet and take inspiration from everything on it,” he says.
“I like to constantly explore new boundaries by combining different design, creative & technology mediums together, which always results in interesting and eye-opening output,” he explains, adding that the GEA project is a great example of such experimentations.
Such explorations have also helped broaden Patrick Semaan’s perspective of the world around him.
“While I am personally fully aware of how insignificant we are in relation to our planet, and the universe it floats in, I think not a lot of people are, or, most people simply forget that fact or take it for granted over time,” he notes.
“Sometimes we have to remind ourselves how small we are, yet how big the consequences of our actions can be on a universal scale. I hope that GEA Project acts as a reminder of that, and boosts people’s admiration for our planet and the universe.”