During his childhood, Tommy Clarke spent nearly every summer on the beach of England’s southern coast. This sparked a deep interest in the interaction between water and land, and how people intertwine with it. However, the now 30-year-old photographer started his photography career in fashion. It wasn’t until he moved to Sydney that he got into aerial photography. Since then, Clarke has hung out of helicopters and small aircraft everywhere from San Francisco to the Canary Islands. When he’s not traveling, he resides in his studio in London.
I was living right by Bondi beach in Sydney and was falling out of love with the fashion world I was in. I went back to my main love: beaches. Striving to get new angles and to always improve, I decided an aerial view would be a great option, so I saved up some money and gave it my best go, hoping to capture a “man vs. nature” set of photos on a stormy December day.
Clark tells Resource Travel that he started out hoping to give people a new perspective on the world, but that it evolved into showing that there is art in all of Earth’s landscapes. Nowadays, his photography pays homage to artists from the abstract expressionism era, like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. He aims to create pieces that aren’t instantly recognizable as photographs, but without changing the landscape from how he actually saw it from his point of view that day. Of course, that requires a lot of preparation.
Probably 90 percent of my time goes into that, to be honest. I have to find the locations, aircraft, pilots and then find a weather window, correct tide times, sun height, and so on. It takes a while, but it makes the shoots all the more rewarding.
Which airspace has been your favorite so far?
I’d have to say, Shark Bay in Western Australia. The landscape there seemed so otherworldly. I actually had to put the camera down for a while to just soak up the view. It was breath taking to see all these dolphins, sharks, manta rays and dugongs swimming beneath the plane.
Clarke calls it a dream to one day be able to shoot from the skies above Iceland. But South America, being “such a colorful continent”, is also high on his wish list.
Is your photography dangerous?
I guess there might be a small amount of danger when you’re taking multiple flights in an old aircraft. But I trust my pilots.
And us viewers are grateful that Clarke does trust his pilots, as we get to see a unique bird’s eye view of the world that we never knew existed.