Dan Marker-Moore: Saving the Planet One Image at a Time

Visualizing change and contrast is what LA-based photographer Dan Marker-Moore does best. For example, his Time Slice series captures one location over time to visualize how the scene changes. Knowing the effect art can have on helping people visualize their impact, we asked Dan to create an experience that illustrates how our choices affect the Earth.

Dan created a 360° image of Manhattan Beach, California. The image shows two views of the area — the beautiful natural coastline juxtaposed with an old beachfront oil refinery. We asked Dan about why he chose this setting, how he created the 360° view, and how he owns his environmental impact.

Why did you choose this location for your Earth Day image?

There is an oil refinery in the El Porto area of Manhattan Beach that’s always struck me as being odd. It’s a beautiful beach, but it has this oil refinery behind it. Apparently, the refinery is older than the town — it was the first thing that came to the area. However, today, the impact of our oil dependence really stands out on this beautiful beach.

What was your process of creating the 360° image?

I built two complete 360° images, each made up of about 15 shots from the same spot. The first one is beautiful — I used a drone to capture the beach and the sky, and the horizon with the sunset. The other image shows the refinery just after sunset, as it’s getting a little murky, dark and gloomy. I shot that from a lower perspective so when you look at the smokestacks they are taller than you — they have a bigger presence and are ominous, especially when you have to scroll up to look at them in the interactive version.

I used Photoshop to layer the images over each other so it would split right down the middle. You can scroll between the two, viewing them as if they are two different times in the same place.

How do you want to influence people with the image?

Documenting the contrast of natural beauty with a man-made intrusion really brings to light the impact our choices have. I hope this image inspires people to do their part in making a difference in the environment. When it comes to social awareness, art plays a big part in spreading ideas and visually connecting people, especially now with the internet and social media. You can take a small idea and spread it across the world remarkably fast. A single image can spread so much faster and reach so many more people than it could years ago.

Do you have thoughts on how emerging tech like VR can advance the social impact that art has?

People are on their phones and they scroll through photos quickly — for half a second maybe. But with VR, people are immersed in the visual environment. It connects them to what they are looking at and forces them to slow down and interact. Having an immersive experience can also make the situation feel more “real” and that increases the emotional investment people make as they are interacting with an image.

Following the idea of emotional impact, what project have you worked on that had a lasting effect on you?

Last year I was hired to work with a charity that goes to small towns that don’t have electricity. They provide solar charging lights to people so they can have light at night. It was an amazing experience. We ended up going to Haiti, up in the mountains, to these small remote villages where it’s super dark with no street lights or house lights. We’d go from house to house and give out lights.

I was there as a photographer to document the outreach and the impact. It struck me because of how having light gave them new opportunities. Some of the visits were to follow-up with people who received lights six months before. In that short time the light had allowed them to open up a store, build a house, and do many other things that changed their life — because they weren’t spending money on kerosene and because they had this opportunity to work when it’s dark outside. For me, that was really a different take on sustainability — not just the environmental impact, but also the economic impact. When people don’t have to pay for energy, they are able to use their financial resources in more effective ways.

Why do you think people should be aware of the impact they are making on the environment?

For me, awareness is just the first step. The challenge is really to think about what you can do and then act. I’ve been trying to take the train more often instead of driving. I try to do the most I can to create the least amount of waste. If everyone made even small changes to their every day life, I think we would see a genuine change in our impact on the Earth.

Experience the 360 below.