A Solo Pilot’s Breathtaking Photographic Project

Solo ‘photopilot’ Andrew Vukosavis a renowned commercial photographer and also a paraglider. Ten years ago he sought longer-range freedom, aka his pilot licence. Soon after earning his wings (with propellers), it seemed natural to combine a love of capturing beauty with newfound access to some of the most incredible landscapes in Australia.

Retrofitting the fuselage of ‘Valerie’, his Cessna 182RG, with an industrial digital camera, the adventurer has zig-zagged the continent on his days off over the past three years… And returned with Longitude, Latitude, Solitude, an exhibition of moving, large-scale art photographs available for all to view in South Melbourne

‘As a kid, I thought photography was just magical,’ recalls Andrew Vukosavs, who did work experience at The Herald. He later left school to take up a position there as a photojournalist, focusing on sports. ‘… especially the darkroom, they had these fantastic machines that could produce you a print in a minute, it was astounding at that time!’

The lensman moved into advertising and commercial work, establishing his own business in 1989. He has gone on to shoot for the likes of Christian Dior, Singapore Airlines, Schwarzkopf, as well as contributed to a number of magazines including Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar.

A love of another ingenious invention, that of flight, has long been held by the Melbournian. Andy has competed in paragliding since his 20s and more recently decided to enroll at Moorabbin’s Royal Victorian Aero Club to earn his private pilot ticket. ‘It’s one of those things that’s really amazing to do – it gives you such freedom,’ he tells. ‘I can pretty much fly anywhere in a seven-hour range in one go, which can get me halfway to Broome!’

He has made seven trips across Australia, travelling a total of 46,000 kilometres and clocking up 185 hours in the air so far. Studying routes on Google Earth prior to departure has lessened the risk of missing something wonderful along the way. Though, when it comes down to it, the locations often appear dramatically different, ensuring it’s always an exciting adventure of discovery! ‘I tend to look for more abstract landscapes and try to find interesting order in the randomness,’ tells the photographer.

Initially, the solo pilot attempted the near-impossible feat of shooting out the window, ‘like driving along with your knee’ style! He ended up engineering a safer camera fixed to the plane’s underside and connected to an iPad in the cockpit. ‘It’s a bit of a clunky set-up. I don’t have a viewfinder as such, rather I’m inside the camera,’ he explains, detailing how he pitches the whole plane into position.

Not another drone-wielding tourist, Andy seeks out extremely remote, virtually untouched places that engage viewers’ imaginations. High enough to take in the landscape as a whole, his vantage is still distinct to that of a commercial passenger. Flying lower (at between 1,000 to 7,000 feet), he is able to capture vast, fantastic formations that appear as if they’re actually macro details. Sometimes he can’t even pick up air traffic control, which can be little confronting and lead to some what-would-Bear-Grylls-do-if questioning! ‘But It doesn’t really worry me, I have never had any close shaves,’ he assures.

Andy’s love affair with the ‘majestic’ Australia landscape revolves around its vastness, a key factor in putting people – just tiny little dots! – in perspective. The drastic diversity he has witnessed is also astounding. ‘Sometimes the little delineations seem so alien. The weather transforms so much.’

He hopes that Longitude, Latitude, Solitudewill help foster a greater appreciation for our unique homeland and cause viewers to consider the impacts of climate change and thus support conservation efforts. ‘We are blessed to be in this country… everyone might be doing their best to wreck it, but there are these young kids going the other way, and I’m excited about that,’ he tells. ‘We need to make sure there is something left here for the generations to come.’

Andrew Vukosav is currently looking for a Sydney site for May and is in discussion with Australian Embassies in Paris and Berlin. He’s looking at trips to Tasmania and back to Lake Eyre (as it starts filling up with water) next – follow on his websiteand Instagram.

Watch talented emerging filmmaker Thuy Vy’s ADFEST-award-nominated short film below.

‘Longitude, Latitude, Solitude’ an exhibition by Andrew Vukosav from The Design Files on Vimeo.

This story was originally published on The Design Files, March 22nd, 2019.

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