Aerial photographer Tim Allen spends most of his time flying high in the sky with his camera in hand. A Melbourne native, Tim has now left behind his childhood home to pursue a life in The Netherlands. The relocation has inspired his latest series, Kanaal.
Tim was first inspired to pick up a camera when he noticed his mother’s absence in photos. As the official family photographer, Tim’s mother never had the chance to be in photos herself. Tim explains, “I started to suggest to her from the age 9 or 10 that I help her take some photos so she could be in them. From there I started to use the camera not so much to take photos of my family and friends, but the world around me.”
After beginning his photography career shooting local bands, Tim expanded his skills to include the work he does today – aerial photography. He completed a Diploma of Photography from Photography Studies College, Melbourne, and now has multiple prizes to his name. He’s been a finalist in the prestigious MGA Bowness prize twice, a finalist in the 2017 Australasia’s Top Emerging Photographers and also in the 2017 Capture Magazine Emerging Photographer of the Year. Twice he has won the Victoria AIPP Gold Award; Landscape. Earlier this year, he was a finalist in the Bluethumb Art Prize, with his photograph Construct 6/10.
Tim can often be found photographing from inside a helicopter or small plane. He also owns a drone, which he takes out in his spare time to capture magical scenes from above. He never shoots alone – in the aircraft he has a pilot for the company, and when he takes the drone out, he brings a friend along. In his commercial work, clients will fly alongside him. Having company helps Tim keeps his perspective fresh – “being engaged with what other people see in the world, helps me perceive my own world in a different way”.
Commercial shoots can involve hours of travel to the site, so Tim makes use of that time to capture his own personal images. In that “dead time”, Tim is privy to all kinds of landscapes – industrial, natural and urban.
With a camera in hand, Tim is searching for the right combination of elements. Lighting, texture, tone and pattern are all important. In his words, “if the light’s not good, then I’m not as invested”. His attention to lighting and detail results in bewitching images. His images often use ‘frame within a frame’ composition, where the scene frames itself within the photo. An example of this is in his image Construct 5/10, where the fences create a border around the central part of the image.
At the moment, the train journeys between Amsterdam and the town where he lives are capturing Tim’s eye. “When you’re going through the farmlands – there’s a place called De Veluwe – it’s the most beautiful place.” De Hoge Veluwe is a national park to the east of Amsterdam, known for forests and rolling hills. What particularly caught Tim’s eye were the inland sand flats of Soesterduinen. “It’s sort of like an inland desert,” says Tim, explaining how the sand has been moved there to counteract much of The Netherlands being below sea level. This seemingly random patch of sand is often used for races.
Tim counts the great Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson amongst his inspirations. “If you appreciate photography in any form or shape, even art itself, you know that their concepts and fundamentals are unbeatable.” Contemporary photographers that Tim admires include Annie Leibovitz and Gregory Crewdson. Tim jokingly confided, “I had a bit of a man-crush on Gregory Crewdson for a while”.
In the future, Tim is aiming to be more active on his social media accounts. His Instagram has a large following of people tuned in to see his latest images. To help with this goal, he also hopes to “keep shooting every day, or every second day at least.” He wants to capture at least 30 frames each day, the equivalent of more than one roll of film.
Tim has a little secret that he doesn’t publicly let on – he shoots analogue film as well. While he only ever publishes his digital work, he’s hoping that one day his secret archive of film work will be something he can share openly. He explains, “People always tell me ‘You’re a digital photographer!’. Well, that’s true, but I learnt to take photos on film.” His film photography has a different aesthetic to his digital landscapes, so, for now, it remains hidden.