Looking Down and ‘Leaning Out’ From 2,000 Feet Up
By Scott Stiffler
6 February 2018
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Milstein, Benrubi Gallery
The exhibit, comprised of 14 large format photographs, combines Milstein’s “lifelong love affair with flying” with his passion for urban design and architecture. The exhibit can be viewed through March 17, 2018 at the Benrubi Gallery in New York City.
“I started when I was 16 when I was learning to fly in Los Angeles at Santa Monica airport,” Milstein recalled. “I had an 8mm movie camera and used to fly around LA taking movies from the air.”
About seven years ago, the artist decided to “turn the lens downward from up above,” and began photographing sites in Los Angeles and New York from the air. Many of the pictures he shot are featured in his recently published book, “LANY: Aerial Photographs of Los Angeles and New York.” Some are also in “Leaning Out” along with new work that has never been exhibited before.
“I concentrate on how things look from the air, mostly on the man-made landscapes. As an architect, I’m interested in cities and how they form — what is the geology and geography, their development, structures, and open spaces,” Milstein said.
Milstein finds parallel representations within his photographs. In his photo titled, “NYC Fifth Avenue” from 2016, the image of New York City recalls “a computer board where information is traveling along highways, but instead it’s taxis traveling down roads instead of electrons down pathways,” Milstein said. “I kind of look for patterns and geometry, things you wouldn’t see from the ground at all,” he explained.
In the early days of Milstein’s aerial photography journey, his pilot friend would fly his Cessna 182 while Milstein took photographs. “He would make steep turns so I could shoot down through an open window. I wanted to photograph New York City but to do that, you need a helicopter or fly 7,500 feet above the control area,” Milstein recalled.
Soon, Milstein began renting small helicopters and asking pilots to remove the doors before takeoff so he could lean out and take photographs. To avoid blurred images, Milstein used a small gyroscope attached to a high-resolution digital camera. This camera, which costs as much as an SUV according to Milstein, was necessary to create the large-scale gallery prints.
Although Milstein spends much of his time thousands of feet in the air, leaning out the window of a helicopter or plane, he insists he’s not a daredevil: “I love flying. I love being up in the helicopter at night with the door off. Between pictures, I just look out at all of it and think like this is in a dream.”