Louisville From Above

One photographer’s quest to show Louisville a whole new view

By Brent Owen

At first glance, David Boone’s aerial photographs are simple and straightforward: They offer interesting views of Louisville from up to 400 feet in the air. But if you look closer – and you take a moment longer – what you’ll find are images that range from beautiful and breathtaking to poignant and enigmatic.

They’re the antithesis of the selfie, though Boone’s pictures can – and often do – simultaneously offer both intimacy and distance.

However they’re perceived, the amateur photographer is on a mission to aid others in seeing the city in a whole new way through Louisville from Above, a project he started on a whim last year.

 

The idea began last spring after a conversation with a friend who had recently purchased a drone. Boone recalls being skeptical of his friend’s new toy. “I was like, ‘Really? What are you going to use it for?’ But I went out the next day so he could show me what it could do, and I was instantly amazed by how cool it was.”

Soon, Boone had a drone of his own. He decided on a DJI Mavic Pro, which came equipped with a 12 megapixel camera that also recorded in high definition 4K video quality. So, taking pictures and videos was the natural next step for the budding hobbyist.

Once he saw the pictures his drone was taking, Boone began to see the town he’d known his whole life in a brand new light. That’s when he created Instagram (@louisvillefromabove) and Twitter (@502fromabove) pages where he would post the powerful images he was capturing. “I thought I could post one picture a day and maybe someone would find it interesting.” In less than a year, between both pages, Boone has garnered well over 5,000 followers who are clamoring to get a look at his unique view of the city.

The Louisville native was raised in the East End with his three sisters. He played football at Ballard High School and later at Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana. Boone’s grandfather is legendary University of Louisville football player Otto Knop, who played center with Johnny Unitas in the 1950s. (Knop has been inducted to the UofL Athletics Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame and had his jersey retired by UofL.) Despite his familial ties to the game, Boone quickly realized he didn’t want to pursue football at the collegiate level. After a year he needed a change, so he left football behind and transferred to the University of Kentucky, where he graduated in 2009.

At this time, Boone was introduced to Big Time Yurts, a local merchandising and apparel company. He began doing graphic design work for the online retail outlet. It was an experience that led him to his current gig, running production for Stitch Designers downtown Louisville.

“I never did study photography,” said Boone, “but as a graphic designer, I think I developed an eye for how things should look.”

Remote drone exploration has become a trendy hobby in recent years, which makes a lot of area locations somewhat undesirable to Boone. “Anything around water is going to be cool,” he said. “That’s why if you go down to the Waterfront or the Big Four Bridge, there are always people flying drones. I try to get away from where everyone else is and shoot places no one’s really seen before.” It’s that tendency to seek out the city’s hidden gems that allows his work to stand out.

“It’s one of the things I love about this project,” said Boone. “I’m from here, but there is so much of this city I haven’t seen. This has really pushed me to explore areas I’ve never been to before and see my city with fresh eyes. And some of these places may not mean that much to me, but to certain people in those neighborhoods, it means a lot to them. I love being able to bring that to the communities within our community.”

If you’ve had the opportunity to browse through Boone’s photographs, you will see why so many Louisvillians have responded with overwhelming positivity. “Look at blueprints or anything that’s ever designed: They’re all designed from that angle (from above),” he explained. “So I feel like that’s kind of the angle we’re supposed to be looking at them from.”

In one series of photographs, Boone utilized Google Maps to locate buildings that, from above, resembled specific letters of the alphabet. He then spent the day driving around town photographing each one, eventually spelling out the word “Louisville” through the images he captured.

Boone isn’t just interested in architecture and cityscapes. He wanders into local parks to capture the city’s natural beauty as well, and not just the most well-known spots. He finds himself shooting in small neighborhood parks he had never visited before, like Chickasaw Park in Louisville’s West End, which he didn’t know existed until he photographed it. “This is a little adventure,” he said. “It’s not like I’m creating anything, it’s already there – I’m just taking pictures of it.”

Boone does a lot of his shooting before and after work since his favorite times to shoot are at sunrise and sunset. “It never fails to surprise me at how beautiful the lines and the shadows are at those times of day,” he said. When it comes to places he likes to shoot, he says that football fields, basketball courts, tennis courts and the local skate park all look interesting from above. He also loves photographing cemeteries due to the interesting patterns the gravestones make from above.

When asked if there is one image that stands out as his favorite, Boone says it may be a shot he accidentally took of a local shipping yard. “I wasn’t there to shoot it; it just happened to be under the camera at the time, so I took the picture,” he recalled. “From that far up, the shipping containers almost don’t seem real anymore. They look like a scatter of multi-colored blocks, toys a kid put together and just left.”

Today, Boone’s future plans for the project are starting to come into focus. He would like to do a showing of some of his favorite photographs at a gallery around town. He is also looking to start selling prints and posters of his work a little further down the line. Plus, there’s always the possibility of expanding his “From Above” concept to other cities, which he recently dipped his toe into while on a business trip to Chicago.

In recent months Boone hasn’t been able to get out as much as he would like. Primarily, because he doesn’t want to exhaust all of his shooting options. “There is a finite number of things I can take pictures of,” he said. “I don’t want to take pictures just to be taking them; I want to fall in love with the pictures.” VT