“Do you fly?” asks Kacper Kowalski when I
meet him, “I ask because people who fly see the world differently.”
The advent of aerial photography has allowed
many a photographer to conceive of new angles from which to shoot a
subject and reveal another dimension. However, as an ardently devoted
pilot for life, photographer Kacper Kowalski is uniquely posited to do
what he enjoys most: rediscovering and capturing the world from above
through his distinctively-trained artistic eye.
Born in 1977, Kowalski is a graduate of the
Technical University of Gdańsk, where he
studied architecture. After having worked in that field for four years,
he quit to devote himself entirely to flying and photography. Both a
pilot and a photographer, he takes aerial pictures of natural and urban
environments of his native Poland.
Kowalski shoots his images while flying in
either a paraglider or open-hull gyrocopter. The photographer pilots
these crafts himself, typically while flying at heights around 500 feet
above the ground. By self-piloting and flying at heights lower than
typically used in aerial photography, Kowalski enables himself to find
images in the process of flying rather than conceiving of a shot and using
flight to capture it.
His sense of visual perspective is informed by
his training and professional experience as an architect. Inclined to
explore how human activity spatially relates to the natural environment
from a bird’s-eye view, Kowalski’s keen attunement to the structural
lends itself to the formally abstract in his aerial photography.
“When I’m flying, I find the forms, features,
shapes, symmetry, compositions, and drama—just as I would draw them in
blueprints…I see the ground through the architect’s eyes. I see how
humans plan, I see how nature reacts to our actions, I see order and
oncoming chaos….I like the little moment when people don’t know exactly
what’s in front of them. Sometimes the object in the frame may feel somewhat
familiar but it’s not immediately recognizable as a bridge or a field or
something they’ve actually seen a thousand times.
He has received numerous awards, including the
World Press Photo award (2009, 2014, 2015), the Picture of the Year
International POYi award (2012, 2014, 2015,
2016), and many others. His work has been featured in the publications
Conde Nast Traveler, Juxtapoz Magazine, New
York Magazine, The New York Times, and many more. His first photography
book, Side Effects, was published by Leica in early 2014.
Photographs from this project are shown all over the world. He lives and
works in Gdynia, Poland. His first exhibition at Photo12 Galerie will be
held in November 2017. In 2017, Kowalski's work will also
be exhibited at the National Museum of Photography's International
Biennale of Photography (Bogota Colombia) and the Landskrona
Foto Festival (Landskrona,
Sweden) before a book on his series Over is published at the end
of the year.
Depth of Winter #32, 2013.
Archival pigment print. Series Side Effecs