These aerial photographs reveal the English capital's kooky architectural past.
London has accumulated a variety of building styles over the centuries, transforming into a miscellaneous, collage-like landscape where high rise flats exist around the corner from 18th-century buildings. For more than a decade, New York-based photographer Jeffrey Milstein has captured its architectural grid from an aerial perspective. His photography-on-high unveils the city’s intricacies, revealing the English capitol to be an ever-changing metropolis steeped in history.
Inspired by a deep-seated love of planes and flying, Milstein takes his bird's eye photos with a high-resolution camera, allowing him to capture the clustered, urban topography. Milstein enjoys photographing inherently interesting places like amusement parks, airports, and cities but also relishes the chance to capture less obviously enthralling scenes.
“I find that a good photograph can be made from more mundane areas you wouldn't necessarily think to go photograph, like a parking lot. I enjoy seeing things in a new way—viewing geometry and patterns in a balanced and organized frame,” Milstein tells The Creators Project. “As an architect, I spent a lot of time drawing plan views and working with geometry and symmetry. I like seeing everything from a bird’s eye view. It lets you see how things relate to each other. Sometimes when I am flying across the country, I look out the window at the cities and roads and try to figure out why and how a particular city and its roads grew where it did based on the geography.”
Milstein’s photography reveals the elaborate symmetry and miscellany of London’s landscape, where the invisible becomes visible. Usually out of pedestrians' line of sight, the British Museum’s roof appears as a turquoise rectangle overlooking the Great Court, while the Gherkin reveals its kaleidoscope-patterned rooftop with a clustered assortment of buildings surrounding it.
Owen Hopkins, Senior Curator of Exhibitions and Education at Sir John Soane's Museum, says that Milstein’s works captures a sense of geometric purity, encapsulating the beauty that exists in the interaction between the ordered and disordered. Discussing the architectural arrangement of London, he says, “For me, it’s London’s tremendous architectural variety that distinguishes it from other cities. This stems from two factors: Firstly, London has a wonderfully irregular street plan. The street plan in the City of London is little-changed from the medieval city, and as London began to expand beyond the old city walls in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this disorder continued. The comparatively straight lines and right angles of Covent Garden and then Mayfair in the eighteenth century are really the exception.
“Secondly, it’s because London’s architecture is always changing,” Hopkins continues. “Cranes are a permanent part of the skyline. London is and always has been a commercial city (in comparison to a ceremonial capital like Washington DC). Commerce and trade drives London’s constant need to renew itself, which leads to some amazing architectural juxtapositions, such as around the emerging cluster of towers at Leadenhall Street, where we have 21st-century towers around the Victorian Leadenhall Market and the fifteenth-century church of St Andrew, Undershaft.”
To view more of Milstein’s work click here.