Cartography Club: Sam Pepple. OpenBag

Sam Pepple worked for the last three years at National Geographic. Starting in NG Maps as an intern, Sam was soon hired to design and produce maps and graphics for the Thematic Section of the 9th Ed. Atlas of the World. After the atlas, he was hired by National Geographic magazine to make maps and graphics for the monthly periodical. In January 2011 he left NGM to pursue a freelance career, and consequently created Sample Cartography.

Map spread designed, conceived and produced by Sam Pepple for the National Geographic 9th Ed. Atlas of the World. click to enlarge

“I am very interested in telling stories through maps; taking the much-labored-over, albeit often stale, graphic language of cartography and expanding the forms and most importantly the themes. My highest priority is to expose the veil of objectivity from maps, relinquishing the mapmaker and map user from having to pretend that they are dealing with truth. Similar to what Denis Wood said in the Power of Maps, a map is much less a picture than a sentence, a construction built by a person employing a variety of modifiers, adjectives and verbs to tell a story; all maps are an abstract textile sewn and weaved with the mapmaker’s experiences, priorities, and style: Let’s accept cartographer as author.

This past summer I began creating a Narrative Atlas of Rock Creek Park with Willie Shubert. Over 1700 acres and 120 years old, Rock Creek Park is one of Washington DC’s most cherished attributes. A lush ravine sitting some 100 feet beneath the city proper, the physical characteristics make the park ripe for cartographic interpretation; countless artists, photographers, historians, and cartographers have documented the place. Even with the overall glut and diversity of representations of RCP, there are so many details that have yet to be mapped. The atlas encompasses many things from a public art project to printed book, to a digital, dynamic, data-base built with open-source geospatial data and mapping API.

Sam's students gathered for the first time introducing themselves through a mental map of their day; Sam is hanging the maps in a "map gallery'" in a station mezzanine of the DC Metro

It is my hope that through projects like the Atlas of Rock Creek Park to inspire whole communities of (non-professional) cartographers to participate in telling their unique narratives, histories, and cartographies through maps.

My lecture at OpenPlans focused my history from Ohio University geography student to print mapmaker at National Geographic to interactive map designer in a programmatic way with Open Street Map data for OpenGeo; the majority of the talk focused on the aforementioned Rock Creek Park Atlas.”