When we see and do the same things every day, the world around us can seem boring and mundane. There is a saying, ‘A change is as good as a rest’. We experience this when we look at belongings from a different viewpoint, decorate our home or go on holiday. Having different surroundings give a new dimension to our lives. When looked from a different angle our world, suddenly, looks very interesting and new.

Artists are always looking for different ways to portray their surroundings. To help achieve this some artists go that extra mile. One of the most difficult views to obtain, that I can think of, is the ‘bird’s eye view’. This view has been inviting to artists for hundreds of years.

“Birds eye view” came into being the moment perspective was a concern of western man, and Columbus sailed towards the ever distant vanishing point. (Newhall 1969)

I asked myself some questions, what is it about “A Birds Eye View” that is so fascinating? What lengths do artists/photographers go to to obtain it and also what are the images used for?



The saying 'a change is as good as a rest' is a proverb; not a very old one. First recorded about 100 years ago. It means what it says: that having a change of activity is as good as having a rest. Thought to be of British origin, specifically the middle-class, one would expect to be called 'Dearie' while being told or reminded that a change is as good as a rest. "Well, you know, dearie, a change..."

Baceseras. (2008). [online] Available at: (Accessed on 20/4/2011)


Plymouth Wheel

The view of The City Of Plymouth taken from the wheel on Plymouth Hoe.
The view is spectacular, but the ride on the wheel was even better. When the wheel started to turn, the pod I was in started to rock , the adrenilin started to flow, my stomach began churning. As the wheel turned and went higher the exitement grew. I could see all of the city, out to sea and all the way to Dartmoor. The Civic Centre and the Holiday Inn look so tiny from here, considering when I was stood at the top of these buildings the viewpoint seemed so high. The experience was amazing, the wheel turned and then came to a stop. It was over all to soon I'll have to go again.


Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky's photographs are large and busy, he likes to portray modern human activity, capitalism and consumerism. He digitally manipulates and merges the multiple positioned shots into ordered/repetative images of huge scale. The photographs are impersonal and full of atmosphere. The photographs are all taken from a high vantage point which can make them look and feel disturbing "someone is watching".
Camera position is the important element of his work. Usually Gursky places his camera up high or as far away as possible, on cranes, or even on helicopters. (Saltz: 2007).


Marilyn Bridges

Marilyn Bridges a photographer, pilot and explorer. Her work has scientific value, but it is also driven by her personal vision and the exhilaration of flight. It highlights the similarity between mark-makers of long ago and the builders of modern cities. Many of the earliest earth works she photographed are impossible to see compleately from the ground. By legend, they were not built to be seen by the makers but by their gods.

Bridges said "I felt as though I was in the presence of a great force, a force that provided unity, that challenged the narrow perspectives of our lives by requiring us to step back enough to view the whole." (Hartshorn: 2011)

Seeing from above is not the same as seeing from the ground. It is not just a matter of up and down. It takes quite some time to be able to condense information from such a large scale of vision. Seeing from a bird's perspective with human eyes initially can be confusing--one gets lost in the sweep of imagery and feels restricted by the apparent flatness of everything (Bridges: 2011)

William Garnett

I was discharged and heard you could hitchhike on the transport taking GIs home. The airplane was full, but the captain let me sit in the navigator's seat so I had a command view. I was amazed at the variety and beauty of these United States. I had never seen anything like that--in a book, in school, or since then. So I changed my career.

--William Garnet. (Napa: 2006)

William Garnett's aerial photographs defies the stereotype of aerial photography as purely scientific and free from artistry. Garett's work resembles abstract expressionist paintings. As landscapes, they do not have the conventional horizon line. His images all reveal patterns that are not seen from the ground. (Fear: 2006) Garnett became the first aerial photographer to earn the prestigious Guggenheim Award. (Napa: 2006)

Garnett takes aerial photographs that show the beauty of the land when seen from above.His pictures of sand dewns look like abstract pictures, the photos of housing development sights look like patterns
, everything is flattened out and looks facinating.


Base Jumping - sport

The Burj Dubthe the tallest building in the world has been the scene for a world record BASE jump. A British man made a successful jump, while his friend a Frenchman, was caught before he could jump. They were both arrested and held in Dubai.

World Record BASE Jump. (2008). [online] Available at: Accessed on 25-3-2011. [Documentory]

Base jumper Dan Witchall asked how he feels before a jump he says ‘I think I might die, every time’. The thrill of outwitting security systems, the risk of being caught climbing up a building onto a roof is almost as big a thrill as the jump. Since 1981, around 140 base jumpers have fallen to their death.
The latest episode of The Men Who Jump off Buildings can be watched on 4oD.

Donaldson. B. (2010). Independentt. The Men Who Jump Off Buildings – Base Jumping [online] Available at: [accessed on 24-3-2011].

Everyone dies, don't they – but not everyone lives," said Dan, the subject of Alastair Cook's film The Men Who Jump Off Buildings.

Sutcliffe. T. (2010) The Men Who jump Off Buildings. Channel 4./The Great Outdoors BBC4. Independent. [online] Available at: (accessed on 24-3-2011)


Armada Way

View of Armada Way, from the top af the Civic Centre, the highest place in Plymouth. The city looks so different, the people like ants all busy wandering about, the shops like toy buildings and the shop entrances are hardly visable


Airborne camera

When man was at last able to ascend into the air, he marvelled at the sight of the land stretched endlessly below him. The “Birds eye view” came into being the moment perspective was a concern of western man, and Columbus sailed towards the ever distant vanishing point.

Frenchman Aurther Batut was a pioneer in this kite or (Aerial) photography. He built a kite which he modified to carry a camera and he used a home made box camera with a guillotine shutter to take pictures with. In 1851 Batut discovered that detailed acurate maps and ground plans could be made by taking two or more aerial photos and reversing the rules of perspective.

The German army experimented with rocket photography and in 1888 the magazine La Nature described the photo rocket. In 1891 a patent was issued to German Ludwig Rahnmann for a large calibre gun or rocket photographic system. A pigeon camera was also patented in Germany in 1903 this consisted of the pigeon having a harness fitted to him, this harness had a miniture camera attached to it.

Batut was inspired by Tissanders book on balloon photography although balloon photographs were rarely accepted as landscape.

Uses of aerial photographs include: - making accurate maps, finding disturbances in soil = archaeological sites, geography = untract terrain, civil engineering, city planning, forestry commission, traffic engineers and geologists, concervation work, as well as tax collection (land ownership). (Newhall: 1969)

Newhall. B. (1969). Airborne Camera. London: Focal Press Ltd.