A Few Questions on Drones, Richard Misrach, and the Tyranny of Perspective

Came across a shared article from National Endowment for the Arts that highlighted drone-based photography in Australia.

The lead picture from the article, a photo by Jampal Williamson, made me think of Richard Misrach's "On the Beach" series, and I quickly pulled-up some thumbnails to compare. You might remember Misrach's exhibition in 2009 of "On the Beach" at the High Museum. If I recall correctly, those photos were made with a large-format film camera, from the balcony of a favorite hotel in Hawaii. Misrach said the project was made in the days and years following 9/11, and were a response to the "physical vulnerabilities" of Americans during that time.

Article on the left, Misrach on the right:


Anecdotally, the gestures of Misrach's figures might have referred to the "Falling Man," the subject of a photograph by Richard Drew taken on 9/11 at the World Trade Centers, and written about by Tom Junod behind an Esquire paywall.

While it might seem like a small thing to realize, the difference between drone photos of beach revelers and Misrach's efforts is the difference between omniscience and being shackled to one particular perspective (a hotel-room balcony). While the digital universe has allowed photographers to capture everything and anything they're standing in front of, drones have freed perspective in a way that's only beginning to be assessed.

What would you photograph if you could be anywhere at any time?

Will artists create psychologically inquisitive and moving work when they begin working with drones? (Trevor Paglen's photographs of military drones are most definitely in that direction, and he's up for this year's Deutsche-Boerse Photography Prize.)

Are photographs created down here on earth, at eye-level with their subjects, somehow more engaging because they represent our perspective, as earth-bound viewers?

Does drone photography offer an accessible middle-ground (so to speak) in the world of aerial photography between this wedding photographer and Vincent Laforet?

Which part of photography will embrace and benefit most from the use of drones? Nature photography, wildlife photography, travel photography, sports photography? Weddings, right? It has to be weddings!

(via villarussocatering.com)

Leave a Comment