Photographer Stephan Zirwes shoots straight down, excitement up

Photographer Stephan Zirwes shoots straight down, excitement up

CultureMay 10, 2019

Aerial photographer Stephan Zirwes uses drones and helicopters to capture what many in their lifetime will never see — how our world looks, straight down below.

Now more so than ever the importance of perception is key. Whether it’s viewing the world in the shoes of another, or like German photographer Stephan Zirwes does, thousands of feet off the ground shooting straight down. He says his most popular aerial photography — that of summer pools with a unique background — began in 2006 before drones were even a thing. Without them, he would dangle off the sides of helicopters to grab the perfect shot. Yet now that social media has caught onto the vibe, his vibrant helicopter/drone style is all his own.

Here did you grow up and where are you currently based?
I [was] born in southern Germany, close to Stuttgart — where I now live.

You started your ‘Pools’ series in 2000. How has it changed for you?
I started with my helicopter shoots in 2000, the first pools I shot was in 2006. But there wasn’t a special focus on this water theme then. Those started in 2014 and it became more and more important to the public and to the media.

Security measures have definitely increased in public spaces. How do you work with drones and helicopters in no fly zones or areas with heavy air traffic? 
I respect all regulations and shoot only within these regulations. Sometimes it’s really a pain in the ass to get all permissions — but that’s the way. 

What’s going through your head when you’re strapped in and taking photos or when you are out droning? 
I am only focused on my shoot and the pictures I see. I work together with the helicopter pilot.

What made you come up with the idea to separate the pools from their environments using patterns? 
The focus should be on the pool — the tiles around are more like a frame for the picture, like a passport. 

You photograph man-made structures as well as nature. What else can be said about these landscapes, made both by earth and hands?
You can find patterns everywhere. Life is like a huge fractal design

Drones aren’t exactly inconspicuous. do you get questions from the public when you’re operating it?
Years ago when I started building my own drones, everybody was curious and very open to this new technique, but now, it changed, most people are mistrustful — scared by the possibilities of what you can use drones for today.

When you are flying your drone or catching a ride in a helicopter, At what altitude are you normally flying?
Drone until 100m, helicopter started at 100m until 3000m.

What are you currently working on and what is next?
@next_population_please on Instagram is about the extinction of mankind within the net 100 years.

And finally, a photo-series about skeletons of mass-food productions (rotten greenhouses in Spain).

Site: StephanZirwes.com
IG: @stephanzirwes