The advent of aerial photography has changed the way people see their world more than any other photographic development since Eadweard Muybridge’s seminal images of moving animals in the second half of the 19th century. The impact is immediately visible in “Leaning Out,” the new solo show by Jeffrey Milstein at Benrubi Gallery in New York City. Milstein’s overhead images of ports, train yards, airports, parking lots, and cityscapes, shot from small planes and helicopters, reveal harmonious symmetries invisible during daily life yet still somehow familiar.
The geometric mosaics in many images jump out immediately, with shipping containers, train cars, and automobiles slotted together in checkered patterns like gigantic tesserae. Milstein’s bird’s-eye view flattens three dimensions to two, and his shutter shrinks several square miles down to the size of a tapestry. The signs of use disappear, the wear and tear, the small distinguishing details, leaving behind bold blocks of color that could as easily be a child’s stacked toys as a massive freight yard or automobile dealership.
One can almost lose sight of the fact that these are also industrial images — of transit rather than manufacturing, dissemination rather than creation. The ordered patterns, undulating over topographical variations, suggest that however chaotic or inscrutable modern life might appear, it is the product of age-old patterns that move us in ways we may not consciously perceive, but which nevertheless guide us through our daily routines.
Jeffrey Milstein (b. 1944, Los Angeles) received his BA in architecture from UC Berkeley in 1968 before turning to photography. Milstein’s work has been exhibited and collected throughout the United States and Europe, including shows at the Ulrich Museum of Art (2008) and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (2012). Noted British photographer and critic Martin Parr included his photographs in his curated show “New Typologies.” He has been published in numerous newspapers, magazines and other periodicals, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Harper’s, GQ, Esquire, Fortune, Time, the San Francisco Chronicle and Wired. His work can be seen at LACMA in Los Angeles; the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.; theGeorge Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y.: and the Akron Art Museum in Akron, Ohio. (Thames & Hudson)
“Leaning Out” coincides with Milstein’s recently released monograph LA NY: Aerial Photographs of Los Angeles and New York. (Thames & Hudson, November 2017).