Kite Flying

After looking at Scott Heafner's work I was inspired and decided it was time I tried to fly a kite. Trying to fly my kite made me realise how difficult it is to do what Scott Heafner and lots of other people do for the sake of a "birds eye view".
I found it difficult to get and keep the kite in the air for any length of time. To think that to put a camera in the air adds weight and instability to the kite and it often takes more than one kite. The camera then need to be aimed and fired.


Olivio Barbieri

In the mid-1980s, Olivo Barbieri travelled to Brittainy, in the north of France, to photograph some of Europe’s oldest manmade structures; towering stones that were shaped and placed on end, these enormous stones stand three to six meters high. It takes only imagination to see these megaliths as the ancestors of the soaring buildings of today. He started out using classical photography and to attempt to describe the world objectively. Barbieri`s expressive approach to night time colour photography brought unexpected life to the scenes. His photographs intensify the unreality that is often encountered in the global cities of the present day. He turned two photographic "mistakes" into signature expressive devices. In the early 1990’s he exploited the technical peculiarity that photographic film "sees" the color temperature of artificial light in ways that do not correspond to human vision. In the late 1990s, he began to experiment with a special tilt-shift lens. Photographs of actual city scenes look like images of miniaturized architectural models. Today there are city’s that are like models.

Phillips,C. (2006) Unreal Cities. [online] Available at:>[Accessed on 20th January 2011: 14:40]



Trying to obtain this view inspired some ingenious inventions, such as sending cameras up into the sky attached to free balloons, kites and even attaching them to pigeons. Some inventions sound pretty dangerous like using large calibre guns or rocket photographic systems. Arthur Batut a Frenchman was a pioneer of Arial photography; he made a kite that could carry his home made camera on which he had invented a shutter that he could operate from the ground. (Newhall: 1969). There was also a French taylor called Franz Reichelt, who made himself a wearable parachute. He unfortunately killed himself by jumping from the first platform of the Eiffel Tower on February 4th 1912. When testing the suit, he said “I want to try the experiment myself and without trickery, as I intend to prove the worth of my invention”. (Je veux tenter l’expérience moi-même et sans chiqué [sic], car je tiens à bien prouver la valeur de mon invention.) (Franz Reichelt) (Wikipedia 2011).

Kite photography was the most used way of obtaining a ‘bird’s eye view’ (even though these views were seldom accepted as a landscape) from the 1870’s until the 1920’s when aeroplanes became more widely used for aerial photography. However, kite photography came back into fashion in the 1980’s, thanks to new high-performance kites, and is practiced today by an increasing number of photographers. Most kite photographers do it for fun. A few, including earth scientists and geologists, incorporate it into their studies. Scott Haefner, an environmental scientist does both. He attaches the camera to the line of the kite, and has a remote control box which lets him aim and shoot the camera. Haefner says. “You have got to be inventive and be willing to spend the time building the rig.” (Weinstein: 2003)

The bird’s eye view is so spectacular there is nothing that people will not do to acquire the feeling of freedom and exhilaration that it gives. Some people even try to make them selves fly like kites, by doing such activities as power gliding, hand gliding and the most recent and the most dangerous sport of all, base jumping. The base jumper launches himself from the highest building or cliffs he can find, and with the aid of a parachute glides to the ground. I myself tried power gliding and found it the most exhilarating thing I have ever done, the view below was just incredible and I felt very safe which was surprising as I am usually very nervous of heights.

Photographers such as Marilyn Bridges and Scott Haefner both have a scientific basis to take aerial photographs. But this is not the only motivation for them. Bridges likes the thrill of flying and Haefner does it for pure fun. Whereas photographic artists Olivo Barbieri, Andreas Gursky and William Garnet, take aerial photographs for there artistic practise and sheer pleasure of obtaining the photograph they will only acquire from the air.



After making an investigation into the subject of aerial photography, I feel that I have come to an answer to the questions that I asked myself :-

People find the birds eye view so remarkable and ever changing that there is nothing they will not do, there is no effort that is to much trouble for them.

“No imagination can paint anything so beautiful now disclosed to our enraptured senses.” (Newhall: 1969).

The thrill of obtaining this view is just as compelling as the view itself.

The images are used for so many practical things such as making accurate maps, archaeology and geological purposes they can be estimations, generalizations or interpretations, maps can be of real places, intangible things, such as movement, data or imaginary realms and much more .

Images are also obtained and manipulated as an art form.

Effects On My Studio Practice

I feel that my studio practice has benefited from my research into a “birds eye view,” as I have now gained an interest in mapping that I previously did not have. I found that taking pictures from high places made me develop an awareness of my own feelings when visiting these places in order to capture the image I wanted. Looking at and analysing the images in detail made me realise how I took certain views for granted.

After looking at photos and discovering the importance that aerial photography plays, in the creation of maps and learning the expected norms in making a map (like the use of scale), it has made me think that I would like to have a go at breaking some of these norms to see if they are important or not. I also looked at the range of subjects that artists use to make maps. These can be purely imaginary or real situations that are portrayed in an imaginative way.

Apart from developing an interest in maps I have also gained an insight into the way mapping can be interpreted and made into pieces of artwork.






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


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