With his art on display all over the world, Belgian photographer Antoine Rose has been amazing viewers across several continents by combining a gorgeous aesthetic and unique perspective. His photography series, “Up in the Air,” captures people and places – mostly beaches – with a bird’s eye view, taken while hanging out of a door-less helicopter. And one of his favorite locations to shoot from above? None other than the Miami Beach, where colorful, seemingly intentionally organized patterns form unknowingly. We interviewed Rose about his unique discipline and what you can learn about a destination when viewing it from up in the sky.
How did you get into aerial photography?
I’m a self-taught photographer. I started taking pictures at the age of 8, developing them in a small lab in my family’s house. Over time, I developed an ardent passion for photography and travels. But I was first introduced to aerial photography when working as the official photographer for the Kitesurfing World Cup. One day we decided to shoot the competitors from another point of view: from above. I loved it. I started working on my “Up in the Air” series in 2002, refining the idea for years. I finally had my first solo show exhibition at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York in 2012.
What are some of the things about the aerial perspective that you especially appreciate?
With the bird’s-eye view, I like to introduce a tension between what seems to be seen and what really is seen, between the visible and the hidden. Depending on the viewing distance, the subject might look either abstract or figurative. Besides the aesthetic dimension, there is an anthropological and sociological layer: people sharing common behaviors and exposing themselves like hedonistic herds.
Are you exclusively in helicopters when you shoot? What do you think about the rise of drone photography?
I only use a helicopter for many reasons. For one, such shooting with drone or plane would be technically impossible. I don’t want to attach a $50,000 camera to a drone. Also, due to security reasons, it would be very difficult to get authorization to fly with a drone above crowded places, and I don’t want to be liable in case of accident. The web is more and more crowded with aerial footage, but when you produce prints up to five meters wide, a drone is just not enough.
What is it about beaches that makes them so interesting to capture and compare?
From a distance, they look like colorful abstract paintings. It is only when coming closer that thousands of colored flecks come to life. The pieces of the puzzle come together and the details of a multitude of everyday situations impose themselves into curious and eager eyes. You can let your imagination run. As I intend to shoot different continents, you can observe many interesting similarities between Europe, the USA, Africa, or Asia.
What was it that attracted you to Miami? What was special about shooting it?
It was one of my very first shoots. I went there because Miami beaches are among the most famous in the world. From above, all the private beaches offer unique, colorful, and magnificent shows. They are quite different than those in the Hamptons, Long Island, or Coney Island. For me, Miami perfectly reflects the hedonistic side of people in a dream setting. I love the energy that emanates from this emblematic place of glamour and uninhibited pleasure.
After shooting Miami, do you have any interesting takeaways about the city that you weren’t aware of before?
To be honest, I never spent much time in the city. I’m always on standby, close to a heliport, which is usually quite remote. But what I can say is that I was not aware of the very multicultural side of the city. I always try to shoot during a particular event; in this case it was Fourth of July, and there is a tradition in Miami where many boats head to the sandbar to enjoy the day together in groups, with music and lots of fun.
Do you have a favorite shot in your Miami series?
Beach candies for its natural and perfect composition; Insectarium for its anthropological dimension. It’s actually the same beach, yet you observe the contrast between the neat arrangement of the parasols and chairs from the hotels and resorts, and on South Beach, which is the public beach, it’s more dense and packed with lots of energy.
What’s on your wish list to shoot next?
I would love to shoot the mangrove forests of Biscayne, as well as south toward the Keys. They seem like very magical and mysterious places.