Zack Seckler, Above
In his mission to capture stunning aerial views of land, sea, and wildlife, Zack Seckler takes to the skies in tiny, single- propeller, light-sport aircrafts. His abstract photographs offer an extraordinary perspective of some of the planet’s most remote locations. Seckler uses the maneuverability of the small planes to his greatest advantage, instructing his pilots to fly precisely to locations which catch his interest.
He describes the experience and the images he endeavors to capture: “From elevations between 50 and 500 feet, the landscape hovers on the line between things looking very real and recognizable and being more abstract. That’s what really draws me in—the line between reality and abstraction.” Deliberately avoiding the horizon and often shooting from the plane window at an angle perpendicular to the ground adds to the disorientation of the curious, two-dimensional images.
Zack Seckler continues: “Being in that airspace, you’re seeing the world from a perspective that’s largely hidden from the human eye. The view simplifies the landscape in some ways while also revealing complexities. It’s our world but it’s also a new world. The experience is very powerful and I hope some of that feeling comes through in the photographs.”
After graduating from college in 2003, Seckler began working as a photojournalist, but by 2008, he had acquired a taste for a conceptual approach to the medium requiring unique problem-solving, and he dove into commercial and personal art projects. The first series, “Botswana,” was photographed the following year in 2009 when he was in the country for an assignment and asked his client for suggestions of what to do with his last few free days. Soon Seckler was introduced to a pilot who took him on an ultra-light flight over the salt flats. “It’s just me and the pilot sitting right next to each other, knees practically touching,” says Seckler. “There are no real doors, no windows—there’s only a windshield, propeller, and wings.” Botswana, situated in the southern part of the African continent, is the home to a wide range of animals, including zebras, wildebeests, and African buffalo, all of which appear prominently in the artist’s images from this body of work.
It was not until November 2015, six years later, that the artist would get back into the air to shoot: “With winter fast closing in, photographer Zack Seckler strapped himself into an ultra-light aircraft and headed off into squally skies over southern Iceland. He returned with incredible images that show a different view of the wild Nordic landscapes. . . Away from the volcanoes and sheer-walled glaciers that have come to symbolize Iceland, Seckler’s aerial shots reveal an ethereal, textured world where ice- blue meltwaters swirl into crystalline seas populated by seals, sea lions and seabirds.” (Barry Neild, CNN)
Then, in 2016, Seckler traveled to South Africa to shoot the country’s enormous natural diversity where, in one week, he and his pilot covered nearly 2000 miles in 45 hours of flight. In his most stylistically varied series to date, the artist captured images of candy-colored landscapes populated by dolphins, sea turtles, giraffes, springbok, flamingos, giant herons, and even occasionally humans.
An exhibition surveying three series of Seckler’s aerial photography from Iceland, Botswana, and South Africa is currently on view at CampArt, in New York.