Photographer, architect, and graphic designer Jeffrey Milstein is perhaps best known for his spare and stunning photographs of the undersides of airplanes, captured at the moment the craft is perpendicular to the camera’s frame. For his new series, on view now at Benrubi Gallery in a show titled “LA NY,” the artist reversed his perspective and took to the skies to photograph Los Angeles and New York from an airplane’s-eye-view.
Milstein’s lifelong passion for flight and his training in architecture converge in these aerial urban photographs. Hovering above New York and his hometown of L.A. in an airplane or helicopter, he pointed his camera down at dense grids of city blocks, housing complexes, iconic buildings, ports, and colossal cruise ships.
This position in the sky—with a camera in hand—is a comfortable one for the artist, who took his first shots of L.A. when he was 17. As he has explained, “When I was 15 I started taking flying lessons by sweeping out a big hangar in return for a lesson; I passed my pilot test on my 17th birthday and used to fly around the L.A. basin making 8mm movies of the city.”
Printed in color and on a large scale, Milstein’s city views lift us out of the urban bustle and provide perspective on its structure. “Often you can see the hand of the planner in a way that is not possible from the ground,” he says. Take “NYC 28 Stuyvesant” (2015), for example, in which New York’s Stuyvesant Town can be seen arrayed in all its order. With perfect symmetry, the large, pale-roofed apartment buildings surround the neighborhood’s central, oval-shaped park. Bright blue ball courts peek out between the surrounding trees’ thick foliage, while two semicircular driveways slice through the complex’s eastern and western edges, like mirror images of each other. Not a thing seems out of place.
Through his photographs of New York and L.A., Milstein speaks of the growth and planning of cities everywhere. For residents of these two metropolises, however, his images will (literally) hit closest to home. Eventually, the artist wants to expand his project to encompass more cities, such as Venice and London, allowing more urbanites the opportunity to see their homes from up high, and anew.
“LA NY” is on view at Benrubi Gallery, New York, Jul. 9–Aug. 22, 2015.
—by Karen Kedmey for Artsy.