BY MADISON SANTOS —
From the green farm fields of Kansas to the white sands of Death Valley National Park, photographer, author and pilot Greg Brown has flown over it all while capturing breathtaking and artistic images.
Brown and his wife, Jean, have been on countless aerial adventures resulting in thousands of photographs of Mother Nature’s beauty. The college of Arts and Letters at Northern Arizona University (NAU) is honoring Brown’s amazing work by displaying 24 of his images in large print at his very own exhibit called, “Views from the Flying Carpet, Fine Art Aerial Photographs.”
The photos were hung in the second floor of the Riles building on this past Monday and will remain there until June 30.
“These are all aerial photographs shot from a small personal airplane in the course of my travels around the United States,” Brown explains. Over the years, Brown has flown over California, the East Coast, Canada and more. The exhibit at NAU features photos specifically from the southwest regions of the country, including Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.
With a master’s degree in fine arts, Brown views the world with an artistic eye.
“I’m looking out the window at what stuff I might see,” he says. “It might be land forms and it might also be affect of weather — like when there is a thunder storm it might make for a very dramatic sight.”
Brown grew up with a pilot for a father, so by the time he and his siblings turned 19, their father offered to pay for pilot school if any of them were interested. Soon enough, Brown was flying for various corporations and a regional airline. Brown is also a flight instructor, but his true passion has always belonged to photography.
Brown then found himself working for Flight Training Magazine, as a columnist.
“We fly all over in this little airplane and I write about our adventures,” Brown explains. “People we meet, the funny experiences we have, places we go. It is an aviation adventure column about flying light airplanes.”
Brown started taking his camera in the air with him to shoot photos to go along with his column. He had collected about four years worth of photos when he met a man named Richard Jackson, who prints large photos for the finest and most famous photographers.
“Over the years I have always knew I wanted to do some large art prints,” Brown says, and after flying between two rainstorms in the Phoenix area, he was inspired start to working with Jackson.
“This flight was like no other one we have taken,” he says. “Me and Jean both took dozens of photos, and one of the images from that flight is so spectacular and unusual, that I thought, ‘Now is the time that I ought to do those prints.’” The photo is called “Sunset Rains” and hangs in the exhibit. “Everyone looks at it and says ‘That’s not real’ or ‘That is a painting.’”
Like "Sunset Rains," all of Brown’s photos are taken while he is on his way to a certain destination, whether it be a vacation spot or a job site.
“The bad news is I might not always have the optimum photo, but the good news is I see things that you can’t always plan for,” Brown explains. “Like when Mormon Lake dried out and the bottom gets all cracked, well there was little puddles all over and wisps of fog on top of those and it’s got this texture you would never see — that’s a once in a lifetime thing.”
The couple rarely flies on commercial airlines when traveling. Mrs. Brown says, “It is a lot more impactful than driving to Phoenix and getting to an airline with all those people and then arriving somewhere. You get the same feeling at the end, but seeing a transition is amazing.”
Browns photos are currently on display in Riles, but the grand opening is not until Jan. 24 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
“I’ll probably go around and say a few words about the more unusual photographs,” he said. The exhibit is open to everyone, and refreshments will be provided.
Even after all the success of Brown’s adventures, his favorite part about what he does is taking his friends and family for a ride in the his plane.
“The real fun is to see the look on people’s faces and know that they are going to tell everyone about their experience," he says. "To be able to give a gift like that turns out to be maybe the single biggest joy out of the many years of flying.”