Heart of the Na­tion

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Front Page - Pho­tog­ra­phy An­drew Vukosav By Ross Bil­ton

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”…

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