Aerial Photography and the Aesthetics of Sport

Award-winning Australian photographer Brad Walls continues to impress, move and inspire with each series of aerial photography shots. He has worked with a range of subjects, never failing to produce exceptional shots, whether he is capturing a beach, a basketball court or a team of synchronized swimmers mid-routine.

We talked with Brad to discuss aesthetics, innovation and his success in using the camera to highlight the potential for beauty and artistic pleasure in all sports.

THE PLUS: When did you first get into aerial photography?

Brad Walls: As a teenager I was quite creative, borrowing friends’ cameras, playing with 3D software, building stuff with my hands and generally being a curious kid. It wasn’t until I bought a drone that I began to take aerial photography seriously.

TP: Did you experiment with any other creative mediums or have you always been interested in photography?

BW: I started making video snippets for Instagram, but I preferred working on one photographic composition. I’m drawn to photography as it allows us to blend creative concepts and the real world, creating a hybrid environment to truly let your mind wander, while as an artform it is quite grounded. Aerial photography provided a realm of new opportunity within the photography space. It is discipline, which I believe has lacked creative innovation.

TP: Do you remember what your first aerial photograph was?

BW: Yes, it was a beach just north of Sydney. My style and philosophy as an artist has changed quite dramatically since then.

TP: So what does aesthetics mean in your work today?

BW: Aesthetics is synonymous with my work. As a designer, I understood how vital common design principles were to evoke an emotion in the viewer. In many of my works, you will commonly see the use of negative space, leading lines, geometric shapes and symmetry – all of these aesthetic components combined create a harmonious effect.

TP: What are your favourite subjects to shoot?

BW: I’ve really enjoyed the pools from the above series, I surprised myself with those compositions and garnered worldwide attention. I also really enjoyed my latest series featuring an Australian Ballerina.

TP: A lot of your work incorporates athletes, dancers or bodies in movement. Your shots of synchronised swimmers are particularly impressive! The pictures reminded us of the swimming pool scenes in Celine Sciamma’s Water Lilies and there is a calming, peaceful and composed feel to the pictures. What made you want to photograph sports?

BW: Lovely! I am yet to see that movie. As an artist, it’s imperative to be curious and constantly asking questions, which led me to ponder what the most artistic sport could look like from a different perspective. I reached out to the local synchronised swimming team in Sydney and they were really keen to be involved and saw my vision instantly.

TP: How did you find the shoot, or working with gymnasts generally?

BW: After some warming up to the camera and working with the leader of the team from the initial shots, we figured out a great working balance and in the end the shots came out fantastic. In fact, I plan to do another shoot with them in the coming months. Watch this space…

TP: You have also done some work for tourism publications, is traveling a strong interest of yours?

BW: It is! However, the route I have taken with my work is less dependent on travel and more about using elements from everyday life to create my compositions. I do believe my work can be suited to travel; it would be more detail-focused drawing in on elements rather than large landscape shots that are common on IG.

TP: Is photography your full-time focus now? What else do you do?

BW: I wish! 2020 has been a curly year for everyone, so I have postponed taking my artistry full time until the conditions are more suitable. Patience is a virtue.

TP: Do you have any upcoming projects you are happy to share?

BW: As aforementioned, my series with the Australian Ballerina is planned to drop at the end of the month as an entire collection. I am really proud of that collection as I was able to solidify the goal of orchestrating top-down aerial portraits from a trained artist – which had been a goal of mine for some time.