Heart of the Nation
Andrew Vukosav calls it a “beautiful little bubble”. He’s describing his happy place, anywhere in the skies above Outback Australia at the controls of his 1982 Cessna – a former drug enforcement plane used to patrol the US/Mexico border – with his pet staffie, Frankie, beside him in the passenger seat. When he’s in that bubble, enveloped by the engine’s white noise, focused on flying the plane while photographing the “God’s eye” view of the landscape unfolding below, all the stress of everyday life melts away. It’s just him and his dog, alone and happy. Sweet picture, isn’t it? Oh, and get this: Frankie’s wearing earmuffs.
You might be wondering how Vukosav manages to pilot the aircraft and take photographs at the same time. The answer: his camera is fixed to the plane’s underbelly, with a live feed relayed to an iPad in the cockpit. When he spots something interesting, he must manoeuvre the plane precisely in order to frame the shot – “the plane is the camera, essentially,” he says – and capture it with a remote shutter-release switch.
This beautiful image, part of his travelling exhibition Longitude, Latitude, Solitude, was shot on the approach to Alice Springs after a flight to Uluru. Vukosav, 54, was struck by the way the evening sun was throwing long shadows from the trees and dunes across the desert. The painterly feel of the image is no coincidence: he says his aerial photography is inspired by Indigenous art – in particular, by the work of Pitjantjatjara painter Simon Hogan – and the way it depicts stylised landscapes from that top-down perspective.
Vukosav covered some 46,000km over 185 hours in the air to gather images for his exhibition. It’s been a respite of sorts from his 35-year career as a freelance fashion and advertising photographer, with its hectic schedules and endless demands. “I’ve never felt so creatively fulfilled,” the St Kilda native says – and it’s given him a grand idea: “To spend the next five years flying around the world.” Now that’s what you call “me time”…