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  • Writer's pictureKate Talbot

How The Calvert Brothers Captured The World’s Best Cities (Pre-Coronavirus) With Incredible Aerial D

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

Clayton and Parker Calvert in their hometown of Manhattan PARKER CALVERT

As we collectively stay indoors for the greater good, it is important to embrace the spirit of travel and daydream about future places to adventure. NYC-based brothers and artists, Parker Calvert and Clayton Calvert, understand the need for inspiration during these times and released their aerial footage from the South of France, Rome, Big Sur, Manhattan, and many more of your favorite cities around the globe.

I met the brothers at the Frieze Art Fair in Los Angeles, and we recently caught up over the phone to discuss their meaning and intention behind this project.

Kate Talbot: Tell us about how your background growing up in New York inspired your love and career for art?

Clayton Calvert: New York City is a source of constant artistic stimuli whether art, architecture, or just the multicultural environment of the City itself. I honestly do not remember a time in my life that predates art. My parents were friends with artists who often imparted knowledge on my brothers and me. It was a trip to Italy and France at the age of 14 that exposed me to a new perspective on art and synthesized everything for me. I knew then that I wanted a life in the arts.

Talbot: How do you merge the world of business and art?

Parker Calvert: Few people know that I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from The George Washington University at the age of 19. I always intended to use this degree as just a backup plan, however I now realize that this business knowledge was invaluable. Economics focuses on optimization - something that artists are always seeking. I am never creating work because I think I can "sell it" - as I feel that creativity need not be encumbered by commercial motives. I do however think that having a strong business sense has guided my career decisions.

Talbot: As millennials, how have you capitalized on social media to expand your network and showcase your art?

C. Calvert: Social media allows for an entirely new audience outside of the limitations of any place or time. It provides a forum for ideas surrounding the work and for one-on-one or group engagement with art. While it is an effective marketing tool for art, it is also one that fosters community. It opens up new channels for collectors, curators, artists, and even novice art admirers. Social media is a fantastic way to keep up to date on the artwork of peers and to support one another.

P. Calvert: Social media has been a tremendously powerful tool for us. In essence, we have been our own marketing team, publicists, and agents - something that was not available for prior generations. Instagram has become an extension of our websites and enables us to have direct contact with our audience, as well as potential business contacts.  Accessibility has been streamlined through social media and the art community has become much more connected as a result.

Talbot: Tell me about this project. When was it shot and how did the idea come about?

P. Calvert: We started this drone project in 2014 when a friend of ours, Oliver Blodgett, approached us with the idea of buying a drone together. Once we had learned to fly in open country fields, Clayton and I decided to take this new technology to our favorite place on Earth: New York City. After we completed our NYC work quite a few years ago, we extended the project to other international locations such as Italy, France, and Iceland.

C. Calvert: When consumer drones hit the market, we decided to capture New York City during the largest building boom in City history. The very nature of NYC is one of change; however, this much change in a singular moment was unprecedented. The drone enabled us to create videos and images of our hometown from previously unimaginable vistas. When we flew in NYC, drone technology was still in its infancy and geofencing did not exist. This created a unique opportunity to take advantage of a new era.

Talbot: What equipment did you use? Any tips for those wanting to learn more about drone filmaking?

P. Calvert: We started with the DJI Phantom 2, a custom drone, the DJI Phantom 4, and now shoot on the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. I would recommend the Mavic 2 Pro to anyone looking into aerial filmmaking. It is lightweight, has great battery life, and has stellar optics. It is by far the least expensive Hasselblad Camera that one can buy. We always put safety at the forefront of every flight and feel that it is necessary to encourage anyone learning to fly a drone to follow current local laws and regulations.

C. Calvert: Video games definitely gave us a head start in terms of understanding how to maneuver the drone. The joystick and monitor interface is very similar to that of the Xbox or Playstation. We always fly with two people, one who pilots the flight and the other who spots the drone. This enables us to fly in a streamlined way that always puts safety first. We highly recommend learning all of the software settings for the drone before flying, and doing your test flights in a rural area.

Talbot: Did you run into any issues along the way?

C. Calvert: Early on, drones would lose GPS satellites easily and the software had glitches. We learned to program the gimbal for smooth and steady shots. There was a lot of trial and error.

P. Calvert: Initially software for drones was unreliable; happily, we made it through these hiccups in open fields. Customizing drones opened a slew of issues, so we settled on the DJI drones. We learned to account for inertia - most importantly, braking long before anticipated.  

Talbot: What are your goals for showing this work of yours?

P. Calvert: We want to share the beauty of the world from above with others. This project gives views that no other tool can achieve. We want others to appreciate the locations for each of their unique aspects - as well as inspire curiosity and creativity.

C. Calvert: We hope this work inspires viewers by offering a rare perspective. We want people to feel uplifted after having watched it and wish to create moments of reflection for our audience. These aerial shots emphasize our interconnectedness and show us many details that are hidden in plain sight.

Talbot: What has the response been from putting this work into the public sphere?

P. Calvert: Quite a few people have told us that they were extremely moved by our compositions. As an artist, to give someone an uplifting feeling is such a gift. 

C. Calvert: The response to the work has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people have thanked us for the footage and have expressed just how strongly the work made them feel. We released the footage during this time, as it allows people to virtually escape the confines of their home.

Talbot:What’s your #1 piece of advice for young artists in today’s climate. How can they differentiate themselves using technology to bring awareness to their art? 

P. Calvert: I implore younger artists to have a survival job before they become full time artists. If you can't pay your bills, you can't create freely. Freedom is the most important gift that a creative artist can have. Find ways to improve your skillset, foster your talents, be earnest, and innovate!

C. Calvert: Push yourself to find your voice and put your work first. Experiment with new ideas and media and remember you have to be versatile. Seek out new technology and try to understand how or if it can be applied to your practice. Your work should speak to your time, but it is a combination of past and present techniques that will enable your best work.

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