(CNN) – Looking at things from the air is nothing new to Jeffrey Milstein.
He took his first aerial photographs of a Cessna 150 in 1961 when he was 17, shortly after he obtained his pilot’s license by sweeping an aircraft hangar in Southern California in exchange for flight time .
He became an architect, then started a design / publishing company before embarking on his current career as a photographer.
It was no small feat, but the helicopter company he flew with facilitated a three-month application process and friends in the art world helped Milstein make the case that the project would be in the public interest.
“They ended up giving me two 45 minute flights over town so we had to work really fast, but I had a good pilot and we did it,” said Milstein, who lives in Woodstock. , New York.
The result is “Paris: From the Air”, a book of 200 fascinating color photographs presenting the City of Light from rarely seen angles.
Milstein’s direct plans, a style for which he is known, are informed by his background as an architect and graphic designer.
“I’ve come to really love this very formal and symmetrical look with a strong focus and neat cropping. It’s really kind of an artistic thing, and it’s also kind of like a plan view that ‘an architect could see. “
What sets Paris apart
The gardens of the Luxembourg Palace
Jeffrey Milstein / Rizzoli New York
A direct image of IM Pei’s shimmering 1989 Louvre Pyramid, flanked by the famous museum’s 19th-century wings, is such a plan view and elegant abstraction bathed in golden light.
Long shadows of tiny ant-like people seem to flow down the page – among the few random elements in the soothing symmetrical order of things.
These detailed plans are interspersed with wider, straight views of the monuments and well-organized districts. of Paris, as well as more traditional tilted aerial views of the city.
Milstein photographed other cities in his simple style – a 2017 book features Los Angeles and New York, and he also spent time photographing at heights in London and Amsterdam.
But what is particularly unique in Paris is its uniform and aesthetic building height, due in large part to the 19th century town plan of Georges-Eugène Haussmann who razed most of the city’s medieval structures, cutting out wide boulevards lined with limestone buildings with zinc roofs.
“Paris has this wonderful homogeneity with these beautiful avenues and light comes in everywhere because there are no tall buildings blocking the light. And it’s a very human scale,” Milstein said.
He captured most of the famous monuments in central Paris, with one notable exception: part of his deal with the city prohibited shooting at Notre Dame Cathedral, which was still covered in scaffolding after the devastating fire in 2019.
Jeffrey Milstein / Rizzoli New York
Milstein shot over Paris as he leaned out of a Squirrel AS 355N helicopter with the door open using high resolution medium format cameras.
“To achieve the straight down shot, the pilot has to do steep, tight circles while I lean as far as possible with my hand holding the camera,” Milstein explains in the book.
In addition to the two flights directly over the historic center of Paris, Milstein performed separate flights over the business district of La Défense, Charles de Gaulle airport (it is not resistant to airports and airplanes ) and near Versailles, where he also received special permission to fly. on the sprawling palace of Louis XIV.
Direct shots of the palace’s intricate French gardens create a series of lush, symmetrical abstractions of green and stone.
Milstein and his pilot, Félix Claro, had a significant language gap, but careful planning and “lots of hand gestures” made it work, he said in the book.
“We had to work fast, because time and the best light were limited,” he wrote. “I go into some sort of area once I start shooting; everything else falls off and I just go by then.”
Onlookers might well step into a similar area by examining his photographs of the tidy streets, monumental squares and hidden courtyards of Paris.
“Paris: De l’air” by Jeffrey Milstein © Rizzoli New York, 2021. $ 25