The Statue of Liberty, Newark Airport, Coney Island — do you know what these sites look like from above? Jeffrey Milstein does.
This uber-talented photographer/author/pilot/architect fills his Instagram feed with incredible aerial photography. And while you might think that he uses a drone to grab these shots, you’d be wrong. As often as he can, Jeffrey takes to the skies via plane or helicopter, with his camera at the ready.
We quizzed him about his aerial photography methods in a short email interview. This is what he had to say.
How and why did you begin taking aerial photographs?
When I was about seven years old, I read a book about a boy who took a ride in a biplane with a barnstormer. From then on, I dreamed about flying — I still remember that book vividly. Growing up, I constantly built and flew model planes and read airplane magazines. I learned to fly at 17 and started taking aerial pictures around the same time.
What is it like when you’re up in the air with your camera?
It’s very fun. I often get lost in the moment. The helicopter door or plane window is wide open and it’s kind of dream-like, especially at night.
What does your photographic process look like? Do you plan your images in any way before you shoot?
I make a plan before I go, but it always changes when I discover new sights while up in the air.
What are some of the difficulties associated with aerial photography?
Planning, adjusting to the weather, getting the helicopter lined up (with permission), dealing with vibration, wind, lighting — the list goes on. The best lighting is the last rays of sunlight at the end of the day, but you only get a short window so you have to work fast to capture your subjects.
What are some of your favorite subjects to photograph from the air?
Buildings and cities, for sure. I like capturing the architecture of public spaces, museums, parks, and amusement parks — plus anything to do with industry and transportation, like airports, container ports, refineries, bridges — basically, anything within the man-made landscape.
What has aerial photography taught you about the world, and creativity in general?
I’m not sure. It’s like traveling over a map of the city. You get a greater sense of order in space, and of the relationships between structure and the geography of the land. You can even see things like income inequality in the location and design of housing. You can discover things you wouldn’t be able to from the ground, like how the Park La Brea housing is laid out geometrically based on Masonic ideals.
Why do you think viewers are so intrigued by aerial images? What about them is so special?
It’s a privileged view. Who wouldn’t want to fly around like a bird looking at anything and everything down below? I think it’s about the content of the image, but also the form in general. My art training and architecture background leads me to create images in a more traditional sense — ones that utilize order, balance, symmetry, and framing. I think we’re so bombarded with digital images today that people really respond to my kind of classical images.
To see more of Jeffrey’s photography, follow him on Instagram. Or, check out his latest exhibition, entitled “Leaning Out,” which is on display at the Benrubi Gallery in New York City until March 17, 2018.