Until very recently, the Angle of God, the earth as viewed from five-hundred feet and beyond, was the preserve of photographers with access to helicopters. Shucking fifteen hundred dollars an hour, often more, the intrepid shooter would drive to a distant airstrip, strap himself, herself, into the open door frame of a rickety little chopper and steal the rarely seen, but always exhilarating, view from above.
The democratisation of the aerial photography game came with the four-prop drone, a stable, reliable, although not always that reliable (think: drowned and smashed five-thousand dollar cameras), platform for photographers to compose what appear to be overhead light-box photographs.
Of course, owning a drone or even hiring a helicopter doesn’t, in itself, make a photographer or a great shot. That must come from the subject on one side and the photographer on the other; from the artist’s ability to render the technology invisible and reveal new perspectives.
As Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “We must avoid snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole.”
The noted Lithuanian artist Karolis Janulis finds unlikely juxtaposition, angles, perspectives in forests, on beaches, crowded city parks, a lonely stretch of road.
In Janulis’ photograph, Winter Road III, a surprisingly lush and bright forest frames two cars in close proximity on a lonely Lithuanian road. The twist? Is the second car an unwanted visitor or a friendly convoy? The art lover, who watches god-like from above, must decide the outcome.
The Australian Remy Gerega still uses helicopter and light-aircraft to find and capture the sumptuous colours of offshore islands, inland lakes, ski resorts, city beaches and remote coastlines. With sneakers braced against the Robinson R44 chopper’s landing skids, Gerega makes compelling images that invoke surrealism.
The French-born designer, graphic artist and photographer François Peyranne has the careful eye of a man who has lived in his life framing and composing. His photographs, shot from a drone, are uniformly smiling: oceans of exaggerated turquoise, lonesome yachts, a swimming pool empty but for two lovers, an overwater hut, a love-heart shaped island.
As art, the Angle of God, brings to mind the great German August Sander who wrote:
“In photography there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated.”
by Derek Rielly