Art around town...

A unique view of the island

Gerard Closset’s new book of photographs lets us know what we look like from above
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 7:15pm

Gerard Closset learned of drone photography while on a photo safari trip to Vietnam in 2018, but he didn’t think much of it. Drones were a “novelty” or a gadget, but then the man showed Closset and his wife Nicki pictures he had taken of the local bay and of rice paddies, and Closset was hooked.

“I was really impressed,” Closset said. When they came back to America he bought a similar drone and started taking pictures on Block Island and other places. While looking at the photos he realized two things: one, a book of Block Island pictures from the vantage point of above had never been done, and two, in order to your drone photos “you have to be a certified FAA pilot. I took a course and became FAA certified last year.”

The result is a book of new images taken from a drone’s eye view called “Block Island Revealed: A Perspective From Above” that offers the reader a tour from the southern bluff-edged side of the island all the way to Sandy Point, with dozens of stops in between.

“Light is very important,” said Closset, in his gentle French accent (he was born in Normandie during World War II, and after the war his family emigrated to South America). “I would get up at 6 a.m. and go to the beach, the Great Salt Pond, or the lighthouses and I amassed a whole bunch of pictures, maybe 2,000 photos.” He said his only concern was taking pictures with people who could be recognized. He then started culling the photos for the book.

In his introduction, Closset writes: “There is something very special about rediscovering the island from a bird’s eye view and seeing views I had never seen before. Seeing familiar landscapes from a different perspective helped the island come into more focus for me rather than less. It has been a surprising, exhilarating, revealing (hence the title of the book), experience and a lot of fun! As an example, an aerial photo revealed for me the first time the beauty of the whole Clayhead Swamp, a place I walked by many times on my way to the trails but had never seen whole.”

Closset also writes that the aerial photos revealed the island’s “vulnerability and fragility.”

Closset’s love affair with photography began with a real love affair. He and his wife Nicki were married in New York in 1968 “and we decided to take a trip to Mexico in my 1959 VW. It was 11 years old and my in-laws were appalled,” he said. “I bought a little Instamatic and took photos and said this was really fun.” He upgraded from the Instamatic and “I’ve been taking pictures ever since.”

Closset said he still has those photos from Mexico.

“Block Island Revealed” is available at Island Bound Bookstore for $29.95. Closset’s previous book of photographs is “Block Island: One of the last great places.”