September 22 2016




There is something about aerial photographs that captures everyone’s eyes. Auckland based photographer John Crawford plays with design, nudity and scale to create unusual viewpoints. His work Aerial Nudes was shot more than 20 years ago on a helicopter in order to create a “bird’s-eye” view of these beautifully composed nudes. We talked to John about nudity, Iphone photography and traveling in helicopters in the 1980s.


Hello John, tell me about your story with photography?

Well, my dad was a doctor but he was also a keen amateur photographer and he used to develop films in our kitchen. So, since an early age I became interested in photography and I probably had my first camera when I was about 10, which was a little Box Brownie. So it was an early start from there.

So, how did the Aerial Nudes project come about?

The idea came about because of my fascination of a “bird’s-eye” view – looking straight down in a vertical perspective. A lot of my commissioned photography in the early 1980s involved shooting from helicopters where I had the unusual privilege of looking completely vertically straight down between my legs to the ground below. Composing a photograph from this viewpoint immediately becomes simpler, because there is no distracting horizon line to consider, so shapes and patterns become abstract and linear.  So on the day everything was carefully planned, it didn’t just happened.


Since it was so long ago, what do you think you learned from shooting this project?

What I learned from that experience was to see things very simply. The simpler it is the easier it is to understand. By putting the nude there I wanted to show how as human beings we are so insignificant and small for the size of the planet that we live on. 

You have a few other project with nudes, so what inspires you about nudity?

I’ve done series of nudes all my life and I just like the form of a nude body in the landscape, because it just gives a sense of scale. I’d rather photograph a nude woman than a nude man, because a female nude is a softer shape. The landscapes I chose are generally soft so it reflects on the form of the body.

You’ve had a lot of attention on Instagram lately. Tell me about the people in your photographs.

I decided a little while ago when I started using Instagram that I wanted to show people my work and probably now 95 per cent of my personal work is shooting in the Iphone. So in the last 6 months I have decided that any photo that I put up must be with a story. So, for instance, I have been doing a series with homeless people. I believe the story is much more important than the photograph because it tells you about human beings, their situations, and where they are and how they got there. It is a big part for me and I like talking to people.

Do you get a lot of resistance from the people you photograph?

There are always people that do not want their photos to be taken. For example I had a barber that said no fuck off! And then I talked to him for a while and went again a few times. The last time I went he said okay, you can put up one photo, and I took about a hundred. The beauty of the Iphone is that it’s not so imposing, so you’re not making a big deal of it and people react quite differently to that.

Follow John on Instagram and follow his work here.

Article by: Laura Rodriguez Castro.