John Crawford said his former wife Carina was 'pretty
brave' about posing in some of the shots which were taken
from a hovering helicopter. Photo / Supplied
An Auckland photographer who has attracted international
recognition for nude aerial photographs he took of his wife in
the 1980s, said the pictures almost never came to light.
John Crawford unearthed the old photographs when he moved to
Auckland eight years ago and put them on his website last
year as a "point of difference".
"I almost forgot about them," Crawford said. "It was lucky I
still had the negatives."
Shot on 35mm film from a hovering helicopter, the photos show
Crawford's then 28-year-old wife Carina lying naked on
various backdrops including a pig farm, tarmac, railway line,
beach, a moving truck, and among cars.
Now 62, Crawford said he took the series of pictures because
of his fascination with abstract patterns and lines. He paid
his wife $100 each time to lie naked in the shots to provide
"It emphasises how we are so minuscule and insignificant in
size in relation to the planet."
Each photograph took weeks of planning and involved calling
in favours from friends including rearranging the carriages
of a train so the colours co-ordinated.
When the pictures went online the commercial photographer was
bombarded with interest from art collectors, designers,
magazines and newspapers the world over.
"They're strikingly different. I'm not bragging, they are
unique. They're complex but very simple."
The aerial nudes, shot in Taranaki between 1984 and 1987,
provided a perspective without a horizon line and could only
be done on overcast days with no wind.
"I've got a very abstract way of working. I love lines and
patterns and shapes so for me this was a dream. Basically it
was a case of coming up with the weirdest ideas and pulling
The fact the images were shot on film had captured the
attention of viewers because digital cameras had made
photography "accessible to anyone".
"People have asked me did I get the images from Google Earth
and superimpose them?"
Although the model is no longer his wife Crawford said she
was "still gorgeous".
"She's chuffed about it. She was pretty brave. In one of
those shots she had to lie very close to muddy sheep shit."
Crawford, who is publishing a retrospective book of his
works, is yet to decide on the offers of exhibitions and
contracts which were flooding in.