Isolated inside our homes and apartments, our worlds have suddenly shrunk.
What is especially notable about their quiet images of some of the world’s most famous places, all shot from above with a drone, is that they were taken not during the current lockdown, but on early Sunday mornings in 2014 and 2015, before most people were out and about.
“We felt like we were filming this empty New York,” Parker Calvert told Artnet News. “It’s about the only time that New York kind of sleeps.”
The artists filmed at the same time of day in Siena and Florence, and in Rome after the city was temporarily paralyzed by a rare snowstorm.
But the strange new normal of stay-at-home orders around the world lends their trio of short films (NYC by Air, Siena by Air, and Roma + Firenze by Air) a newfound resonance.
The pair began experimenting with drones after they became commercially available in 2014, using them to shoot images of Hudson Yards as it was under construction in New York.
“I think artists are obliged to use new digital tools for their practice,” Clayton Calvert said. “I’m an oil painter, and my first thought was of Leonardo da Vinci, who used to paint overhead views of cities without ever having seen them from above. If Leonardo were alive today, he would love to fly a drone.”
But if Leonardo were around, he would have already missed his opportunity, at least in New York, where drone flights are now restricted through geofencing measures.
“When we were flying in New York, there was no geofencing,” Clayton said. “We were just in the right place at the right time.”
“We knew that because it was a new frontier, there was a lot of gray area,” Parker added. “The laws were very unclear.”
And even though they were fairly confident they were operating within legal limits, the Calverts always took safety precautions. Waking up at the crack of dawn made for dramatic footage, but it also limited the chance of collisions.
“No footage is worth any risk to people, animals, or landmarks,” Parker said.
Dangers aside, they are happy to finally share their work with the public in a strange new time.
“It is weird looking at these videos now, where you see very little movement in the streets,” Clayton said. “Italy is dealing with a massive health crisis, and New York City is the epicenter here in America. It’s such a strange moment for both countries. Looking at the footage now, it feels like the right time in a very odd kind of way, to share it with more people.”
See more images, as well as each of the three films, below.
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