Amazing Aerial Photos of LA and NYC Reveal Urban Geometry

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No matter how far and often you might wander around your city, there’s one way you most likely never get to experience it: from above. Approached from directly overhead, the bird’s-eye-view renders virtually any urban scene unrecognizable, reducing landscaped streets and towering skyscrapers to mere shapes within an abstract composition, as if it’s a work of art. And perhaps, for some urban planners, it is. Thanks to photographer Jeffrey Milstein, we can all appreciate New York City and Los Angeles from a new perspective.

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Captured from a helicopter both at night and during daylight, Milstein’s aerial imagery of these two iconic American cities presents entire neighborhoods as tapestries of geometric shapes. New York’s Stuyvesant Town looks like a bunch of crosses embedded in greenery, and the Statue of Liberty is strikingly jewel-like on its island. 

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Some of LA’s most posh neighborhoods are unsurprisingly picturesque from above, laid out in their carefully-arranged grids and often centered upon parks. In comparison, the shots of downtown look downright bleak, sort of like you’re looking at a circuit board rather than a full-scale city. The photographs are on display now at New York’s Benrubi Gallery and LA’s Kopeikin Gallery.

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If looking at the pictures gives you vertigo, good, says Milstein. That’s the effect he’s going for. “That’s exactly what I want. To get a visceral reaction from it,” he told City Lab.