Chicken's eye view: NZ's Petra Leary's drone pictures gaining world consideration



Petra Leary, 28, is an award-winning drone photographer living in Auckland.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

Petra Leary, 28, is an award-winning drone photographer dwelling in Auckland.

Earlier than Petra Leary received her first drone digicam, she used to must climb to the highest of tall issues to get the photographs she needed. Typically, this concerned a little bit trespassing. Leary and her flatmate would scope out buildings in downtown Auckland that appeared like they could have accessible rooftops and off they’d go (it is known as “rooftopping” – it is a factor). “We lived in the city, so it was easy to be like, ‘where should we go tonight?'”

She used to climb cranes, too, however ended up getting caught and arrested. “The police were going to let us go but then they looked at our record and were like, ‘You guys have been trespassed six times so we’re going to have to arrest you.’ We didn’t get convicted or anything, which was cool.”

Leary's photos of basketball and tennis courts are her signature. This one, called Shadow Play, showcases her skill in doctoring an image to make an onlooker think twice about what they're seeing.

Petra Leary

Leary’s images of basketball and tennis courts are her signature. This one, known as Shadow Play, showcases her talent in doctoring a picture to make an onlooker assume twice about what they’re seeing.

Then a good friend gave Leary a go together with his drone and with that, her rooftopping days have been over. She was instantly hooked and acquired herself one which afternoon. “I thought, ‘This is the coolest thing ever’. It feels like this strange combination of playing a video game, and the ability to almost fly. I love the surprise of what you discover and how different the world looks – this fresh perspective to play with.”

Ōrākei Kōrako geothermal area, Taupō

Petra Leary

Ōrākei Kōrako geothermal space, Taupō

In just some brief years, the self-taught Leary, 28, has turn out to be an award-winning aerial photographer with a rising worldwide popularity. Earlier this yr hers was amongst seven names on the shortlist within the Sony World Images Awards – an enormous deal within the pictures world.

The day earlier than our interview, she’d simply been awarded “Best Photographer” on the NZ Webstar Journal Media awards. And in between interviewing Leary and this story going to print, she was introduced as a finalist within the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Yr. The Guardian has featured her work many occasions and her photos have been included in pictures books and on journal covers. Plus, an ever-growing listing of economic shoppers – together with Ford, T-Cellular and Virgin Australia – means she will be able to make a good dwelling.

Leary, a self-described 'tomboy' hated high school. After leaving, she spent the next few years making art, playing video games and skateboarding.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

Leary, a self-described ‘tomboy’ hated highschool. After leaving, she spent the following few years making artwork, enjoying video video games and skateboarding.

In Might, Leary held a solo exhibition known as Zero Gravity, which comprised a collection of her favorite issues to {photograph}; outside sports activities courts. “It’s something about the symmetry and simplicity that I love, the shapes and lines combined with the different surfaces and colours.”

She reckons over the previous two to 3 years she’s most likely photographed round 90 per cent of Auckland’s outside courts. And whereas the pictures might seem easy at first look, look a little bit extra carefully and you may see issues are not fairly as they need to be. Leary manipulates her photos in post-production, typically masking out shadows and placing them again somewhere else. “I like the idea that people look at it and they don’t really notice it straight away. Then, oh wait, something looks weird about that.”

Leary called this shot of a Melbourne basketball court 'Mathematics' in her exhibition, Zero Gravity.

Petra Leary

Leary known as this shot of a Melbourne basketball courtroom ‘Arithmetic’ in her exhibition, Zero Gravity.

Leary was born within the Auckland suburb of Gray Lynn and spent most of her childhood there. She likes to say she grew up in a barn, which is form of true. Earlier than her mother and father purchased the property, it was a warehouse that produced funeral clothes for the lifeless. Her mother and father separated when she was younger and her mom purchased the home subsequent door, which shared a connecting backyard, so she and her brother may proceed to be near each mother and father.

Leary says she has been surrounded by artwork her entire life. Her mom is an artist – “our kitchen and dining room table was covered in mosaics for years.” Her father taught at Elam Faculty of Advantageous Arts within the 1980s and had a ardour for pictures and sculpture. Additionally, crusing ships.

“When I was 8, he bought this 60-foot wooden sailing ship, it was like, 101 years old and he restored it himself. It was just before the America’s Cup in 2000. He turned it into a pirate ship and painted it black with gold trims. 0800Pirate was the phone number he chose to have as the chartering contact, so we used to get heaps of funny prank calls. He made this giant slingshot out of a bungee cord and we would sail along and shoot water bombs at all the fancy boats during the America’s Cup. He was pretty wild.”

She says this final bit with nice delight.

A Queensland swamp, shot from above

Petra Leary

A Queensland swamp, shot from above

Leary hated faculty. She discovered it exhausting to pay attention and – aside from artwork class, which she excelled at – she was bored a lot of the time. She remembers doing “stupid things” just like the time she made a visit wire at school considering one other child would journey over it, however as an alternative her instructor did. She ended up being requested to depart on the finish of fifth type.

She had been recognized with ADHD at the start of highschool. “When I was officially diagnosed, it wasn’t much of a surprise. I was a real tomboy and spent a lot of time climbing trees and all that sort of stuff.”

There are occasions, she says, when dwelling with ADHD is tough: “If someone’s trying to have a conversation with me and there’s something else going on, it’s the most impossible thing. I’m listening to you, but I don’t actually know what you’re saying. Or, in a situation where you’re supposed to stay really still and act like a professional, then it can be bad.”

Leary has been surrounded by art her whole life. Her mother is an artist. Her father taught at Elam School of Fine Arts in the 1980s and had a passion for photography and sculpture.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

Leary has been surrounded by artwork her entire life. Her mom is an artist. Her father taught at Elam Faculty of Advantageous Arts within the 1980s and had a ardour for pictures and sculpture.

However it may be good, too. She enjoys having plenty of power and might turn out to be hyper-focused on one thing if it pursuits her. “I’ll start doing something and then all of a sudden it will be five hours later and I’m still doing it, which is super good – especially because I love what I do.”

After leaving faculty, Leary spent the following few years making artwork, enjoying video video games and skateboarding. At 18, she was dwelling at residence together with her dad, who was serving to her put together for her first exhibition, when he died all of the sudden of a coronary heart assault. He was simply 54.

“It was pretty crazy,” she says blinking away the tears. They have been shut.

“He always just wanted to have fun and not get caught up in worrying about things. Life was all about joking and enjoying it. I think I’m similar in that way. He had this attitude like, if you want to do something, or make something, it’s possible. I came home one day and he had made this giant hot air balloon in the lounge. And once, when I was a kid, I told him I wanted a hut that looked like a monster I drew, and the next day he had built one. Me and him were like best friends. All my siblings would always say I’m his golden girl, his favourite.”

 Ōrakei Marae, from a series for Ngāti Whātua

Petra Leary

Ōrakei Marae, from a collection for Ngāti Whātua

Leary’s dad left behind six youngsters. Petra and one brother share the identical mom, and her different three brothers and sister all have completely different moms. Though they vary in age from 21 to 45, they’re all very shut and see one another usually. “I think because we never all lived together, we’re closer.”

Just lately, Leary was the topic of a brief documentary known as Chicken’s Eye, one in every of eight chosen to be a part of Loading Docs, an annual New Zealand brief documentary initiative. This yr’s theme was energy; loosely exploring how unlikely characters can turn out to be the heroes of a narrative. Among the many different documentary topics have been revered celestial navigator Sir Hector Busby; world champion freediver William Trubridge; and activist and chief of the protest at Ihumātao, Pania Newton. That is some fairly hefty firm to be in.

Petra Leary's photo, 'Follow the Leader' was commissioned by Ford Australia. Commercial work allows her to make a decent living off her self-taught craft.

Petra Leary

Petra Leary’s photograph, ‘Observe the Chief’ was commissioned by Ford Australia. Industrial work permits her to make a good dwelling off her self-taught craft.

“I was really stoked to be asked. It was never something I imagined I would be featuring in, especially alongside the other subjects of the docos. These people have done some amazing things and made some big changes in New Zealand – and I’m just flying my drone.”

Leary has acquired tonnes of suggestions since Chicken’s Eye launched. “I’ve had so many people message me in the last few weeks thanking me for being so open about my life and ADHD, and how much they can relate and respect it. And others, who have also lost parents at a young age.”

The documentary has been chosen to display screen on the DOC NY 2019 movie competition, the largest movie competition within the US, and he or she’s heading over there subsequent month.

And within the meantime? Extra courts, after all. “Because I’ve run out of the basketball courts, I’m now working on a tennis series.” Plans are below means for one more exhibition. And within the meantime, she’ll proceed spending her days skateboarding round together with her canine Kodak, searching for the following factor to {photograph} – as long as it is wanting down from up excessive. “I’m pretty sure something has switched in my brain after flying drones. It’s impossible for me not to think in a bird’s-eye perspective now.”

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