Sinagua Village with Tailings Pond

Adriel Heisey photographed “Sinagua Village with Tailings Pond” in 1998. It was taken of the Tuzigoot National Monument in Arizona’s Verde River Valley.

courtesy of Adriel Heisey

Little did Adriel Heisey know that images he captured of the Southwest while serving as a corporate pilot would become a nationally respected exhibition.

Heisey was living in Oro Valley, flying for the Navajo Indian Government, when he took many of the aerial images that are now part of photography exhibition titled “From Above: Images of a Storied Land.”

The New Mexico-based photographer lived in Oro Valley, where he met his wife, for about nine years. The show of photographs was put together around 2003-2004, and opened in Albuquerque.

The collection completes its nationwide tour with a three-month exhibition at the Ventana Gallery on the Ventana Medical Systems campus in Oro Valley. The show opens on Oct. 7.

Adriel Heisey began flying airplanes when he was 15 years old, and his interest in photography developed in tandem. His aerial photographs have been featured in numerous publications, including Arizona Highways, New Mexico Magazine, National Geographic, American Photo, Photo Life, Whole Earth, Journal of the Southwest, and Nature Conservancy.

A collaboration among Heisey, Tucson-based nonprofit Center for Desert Archaeology and the Albuquerque Museum, the current exhibition features 60 large-format aerial photographs of historical landscapes across the Southwest.

The free exhibition runs through Jan. 7. An opening celebration with a presentation by Heisey will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 6.

Each photograph in “From Above” commands attention. Human imprints on the landscape – past and present – create patterns best perceived from the air.

Relationships among time, change, life and landscape are revealed by subtleties such as a visitor’s footprints in freshly fallen snow at an ancestral Pueblo site.

“I find great satisfaction in using technology to heighten awareness and appreciation,” said Heisey, who captured the images from the open seat of his experimental Kolb TwinStar airplane. “[Ancient] ruins seem delicate, passive, vulnerable, and unrecoverable…this experience can increase our apprehension of their place in the landscape.”

Viewers can view the wonder and fragility of some of the Southwest’s best-known archaeological sites, such as Chaco Canyon’s Pueblo Bonito and Tucson’s own Tumamoc Hill, as well as special places off the beaten path.

Center for Desert Archaeology President Bill Doelle noted, “As an archaeologist, I hope that the scientific content in these images comes through…however, these photographs are not primarily about science. They elegantly reveal the diversity of the human relationship with the earth.”

The framed and matted archival-quality photographs are for sale, with proceeds to benefit the Center for Desert Archaeology. Headquartered in downtown Tucson, the Center for Desert Archaeology connects people with the deep, rich past of the Southwest’s special places. It also administers a unique archaeological site protection program.

Heisey supports the Center’s approach: “In our fervor to command our world, we may do well to draw a lesson from one of archaeology’s most pragmatic strategies: leave some places untouched out of respect for our present ignorance.”

Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., with the administrative support of the Southern Arizona Art and Cultural Alliance (SAACA), offers this exhibition in the Ventana Gallery, the largest free gallery in Southern Arizona.

The gallery is located at Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., 1910 Innovation Park Drive in Oro Valley.

Viewing hours are first and third Saturdays of each month, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or by appointment. To arrange a visit to the Ventana Gallery, contact Pat Deeley at SAACA, by calling 797-3959, ext. 9, or by email at

Ventana received the 2009 Pima County Arts Council Lumie Award for outstanding business partner in support of the arts.

To learn more about Heisey, visit his website at

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