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London from 2,000ft: Donn Delson is art world’s eye in the sky

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Donn Delson has made his name hanging out of helicopters in the name of art.

The 75-year-old landed in this curious sector of the photography field only a decade ago but his work has quickly spread around the world’s galleries and art fairs.

His pictures offer sweeping birds-eye views of cities and landscapes, often showing familiar sites from widely inaccessible perspectives.

Circus Nights (Dusk over Piccadilly Circus)
Circus Nights (Dusk over Piccadilly Circus) (Donn Delson)
Points of Light, London
Points of Light, London (Donn Delson)

He aims for high detail and prints big – up to four metres wide – in the human-scale format made popular by art world giants like Cindy Sherman and Andreas Gursky.

Delson’s current camera of choice is the Fuji GFX 100, enabling him to capture images at 102 megapixels (the latest phone cameras shoot around 12MP).

After retiring in 2010 from a successful business career – in which he founded and sold several firms including a merchandising company representing, among others, Rihanna and Billy Joel – Delson leant into pursuing photography professionally.

A helicopter trip in Queenstown, New Zealand, in 2015 set him on his current trajectory, which has seen him capture cities and landscapes the world over from heights up to 12,000ft.

Feathered (Shipping containers in East London docks)
Feathered (Shipping containers in East London docks) (Donn Delson)
Turntables (Beckton Sewage Treatment Works, London)
Turntables (Beckton Sewage Treatment Works, London) (Donn Delson)

“Collectors often tell me that viewing my photography affords them an almost meditative experience, as the large scale of the works helps immerse them in the visual experience,” says Delson.

Cascade (Cherry blossoms in Nara Prefecture east of Kyoto)
Cascade (Cherry blossoms in Nara Prefecture east of Kyoto) (Donn Delson)
All the Glitters (Mojave Desert)
All the Glitters (Mojave Desert) (Donn Delson)

Last month the photographer visited London and invited The Independent picture desk to accompany him on a flight over the city.

Taking off from Battersea Heliport, the helicopter travelled east over central London, above sights including the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, Tower Bridge and the British Museum.

Fiammata (Dead Sea, Israel)
Fiammata (Dead Sea, Israel) (Donn Delson)
Sandbox (Coal fields in Amsterdam)
Sandbox (Coal fields in Amsterdam) (Donn Delson)

Delson said of the trip: “Flying multiple flights over London last week with so many of the London press corps was an honour.

“It was also so much fun to be able to share the experience with people who know and love their city, and may never have had the opportunity to experience such an intimate perspective from just above it.”

Donn Delson on a photoshoot over Los Angeles
Donn Delson on a photoshoot over Los Angeles (Donn Delson)

He added: “Virtually everywhere you look above London, you see the history of this great city, the old along with the new. It’s a spectacular amalgam of architecture, and one over which I could spend many hours with or without a camera in my hands.

“I got to do what I love to do, and the best part for me was sharing that feeling with so many others”.

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