The euphoric sights taken in from a plane above the clouds have surely inspired many creative works, however, for Bertie Taylor, it is the landing that provided inspiration for his latest project, Life under the flight path & the plane spotters of London Heathrow
“When you’re about to land on a flight, I always look out the window and wonder what it must be like for the residents who live so close to the airport,” Bertie tells It’s Nice That. “I did a little research and found out that Myrtle avenue by Heathrow is just one hundred metres away from the southern runway, planes literally fly as low as forty feet above the houses.”
His series explores how people live with planes thundering over their heads, as well as the community of people who are drawn to the area.
“It takes a look at life directly underneath the Heathrow airport flight path and the people who live and work there,” he explains. “It is also one of the most popular plane spotting locations in Europe. You meet people from all walks of life, from disgruntled residents who have to put up with the endless noise, to keen aviation enthusiasts who have flown all the way from Germany just to watch the planes fly in!”
The images that Bertie has captured are startling, and he has managed to portray the juxtaposition between peaceful suburban life and the constant presence of roaring aircraft.
“It’s a crazy place. On first impressions it looks like your average suburban street, then out of nowhere you’ll hear a thunderous roar as if the world is about to end, and an A380 flies so low over the rooftops it looks like it might take a chimney off,” he says.
Bertie only began taking photography seriously around four years ago after trying his hand at other artistic media such as film, and even acting. He now works across both documentary and fashion, finding the medium a perfect outlet for his creativity: “The thing I love about photography is that you have something instantly. As I’ve always had some element of ADHD, this works perfectly for me!”
Much of the strength of this project is down to the composition of the images. Bertie manages to maintain the presence of both suburbia and aircraft in the photographs, maintaining the comparison of two things that seemingly shouldn't mix.
Bertie’s work may come across as considered, however much of what he has done here is based on impulse, trying to capture the moment as it occurs. “On one side, I’d say generally my style is quite abstract and I’m also quite impulsive. If I'm shooting documentary I don’t think too much, my finger presses the shutter before my brain catches up! On the other side of things, I like creating cinematic concepts, things I dream up in my imagination,” says Bertie. “That’s the great thing with photography, you can make something tangible out of your vision.”
But whilst the reactions to scenes were instantaneous and relied on instinct, a lot of planning was required before shoots to make it all happen. “There are a number of factors that need to be just right, otherwise you are screwed. For one, there are about four different runways, if there is a sudden change in wind direction they’ll switch runways and I needed one in particular,” he explains. “So you may be all prepared the night before and then wake up in the morning to find they are landing somewhere entirely different. You also need clear blue sunshine, which in the UK can sometimes be hard to find, that’s why it’s taken me over a year to complete!”
Bertie is now looking for a publisher to help him turn the project into a book, whilst also continuing to photograph unexpectedly interesting places. “In what initially appears a mundane and ordinary place, you can find something extraordinary,” he says. “Day to Day reality gets boring, photography offers a momentary escape for the senses!”
GalleryBertie Taylor: Life under the flight path & the plane spotters of London Heathrow
Bertie Taylor: Life under the flight path & the plane spotters of London Heathrow
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.