mahabis interviews // julieanne kost
When we posted about Luc Busquin's series of airborne skyscapes, we became transfixed by photography of these scarcely seen perspectives of the world.
Having explored the work of other aerial photographers, we came across the amazing Julieanne Kost. Like Busquin, her images have a dream-like aspect, displaying vast landscapes from above. Rather than making us feel small, her photographs have an abstract quality that remove the sense of scale, inviting your own interpretation. Each shot offers a chance to reflect. The images from this post originate from her series entitled 'window seat'
From meandering rivers to grid-like shots of farmland taken from over 30,000 ft, Kost experiments with scale, pattern and colour.
We caught up with Julieanne to find out more about her work, her downtime, and her inspiration.
We love your unique perspective of the world from above. What inspired you to start taking and sharing photographs taken from the windows of planes?
In some ways, these images are the byproduct of a necessary part of my job: business travel. I travel about 280 days a year, and, for better or worse, almost all of the places I have to go require that I fly to get there. As a result, I spend a great deal of time on airplanes in those tiny, cramped seats with little to do but try to work or read (since I don’t watch many in-flight movies).
I began shooting photographs out of airplane windows because I needed a creative outlet. I was looking for an opportunity to photograph something, but all I had to look at were the insides of airports, cabs, hotels, and convention centers, and, for the life of me, I just couldn’t find a way to make those places interesting subjects to photograph.
Shooting photographs allows me to stay sane during those long flights and gives me something to focus on so that I’m doing more than simply moving between point A and point B.
What do you look for when taking your aerial photographs? What kinds of landscapes are you drawn to?
I am drawn to abstract patterns, shapes, and colors. I try to remove any sense of scale from an image in order to lead the viewer into creating his or her own interpretation of the scene.
Do you find it hard to tear your gaze away from the window and relax when flying?
Honestly, I have a bit of a handicap when it comes to flying: I am scared to death of it. I’ve always been afraid of flying, but during one particular 20-minute bout of turbulence in the middle of the Andes years ago, I found myself white-knuckled, fingers embedded in the hard plastic “arm rests.” The camera became a buffer between the reality of that moment and my own thoughts. When flying, after all, we are moving through the air at 500 mph in a big metal tube, and, as I learned from my father (he is an engineer), all metal has stress points that can fail.
I discovered that shooting pictures out the window allowed me to view the scenery in a different context: not as the earth some 30,000 feet below, but as an immense, constantly, scrolling image.
As long as I could see the world as an image through an eyepiece rather than as a harsh, physical reality, the threat was less real. I became a spectator—an observer of the scene rather than part of it.
How do you like to relax during a flight?
Taking photographs out the window is a way for me to relax during a flight; it’s calming as well as nonconfrontational. It relaxes me to watch the clouds scroll by. I can shoot on my own time and my own terms – simply observing the landscape. It’s not an effort or a struggle; it’s an easy exchange, a natural conversation I have with all that surrounds me outside that window. I reach a certain peace of mind when I shoot photographs like these; it’s almost a form of meditation. There are no deadlines, no requirements that I shoot a certain number of images, and no one else’s expectations to meet.
For me, it’s instinctive to look out that window. I think it’s ironic that the video screens on newer planes are almost the same size as the windows, and that so many people prefer to watch the packaged, predictable, artificial, advertisement-laden content on the screen rather than marvel at what’s outside their windows. No matter how much I travel, I will always appreciate what I’m seeing: the unique view from 36,000 feet.
Which other photographers do you look to for inspiration?
Keith Carter and John Sexton’s work has always been very inspiring to me, as has Maggie Taylor, Jerry Uelsmann, Michael Kenna, Ryszard Horowitz, Ansel Adams, and Robert ParkeHarrison. Although, I try to look at many photographers across different genres as well as designers, fine artists, cinematographers, and typographers for inspiration.
How important is downtime for you, and what is the ultimate way you choose to unwind?
Downtime is extremely important for me. As an introvert, I need time to recharge and refuel. Most of my downtime is spent working on one of the many personal photographic projects that I have. I find that it’s these personal projects that continue to keep me in love with and passionate about photography.
These projects are an investment in my own work and allow me the opportunity to create meaningful collections of images and ideas to share with the world. They are the primary way for me to ensure that my photography continues to evolve, and they advance my ability to tell a story. I want to make sure that I am constantly challenging myself and my work in order to improve.
Because personal projects are self--assignments, I am able to take risks, experiment without any pressure, try new technologies, and pursue new ideas. Every time I commit to a body of work, I have the opportunity to practice my craft, improve my skills, and reach new levels of image making.
If you had an extra hour in the day, how would you spend it?
I think I would split it into two thirty-miut blocks and spend the first thirty minutes meditating, and the second working on my digital composite work. I have so many ideas/concepts/images in my head that I want to create, and would love to have an extra thirty minutes a day on them.