The Costa Mesa City Council has pulled the plug on a partnership that provided Airborne Law Enforcement services to Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana. The helicopter, known as Eagle, has now been grounded due to either budget cuts or politics, depending on who you ask. With its forward looking infra-red camera and high intensity light, few criminals found sanctuary once Eagle arrived on-scene.
I considered Eagle to be my mechanical muse because it was the focus of an ongoing photo project I call The Omnipresent Series. I spent many nights chasing Eagle so I could set up my camera for time lapsed photographs that produced surrealistic images of a seemingly terrestrial light tearing through the urban night sky. I began the project using a film camera and in 2004 transitioned to a digital camera. Each process produced equally provocative results.
Though the light in the sky was the focal point of my project, I soon found that the urban foreground played an equally important role in setting the mood. By emphasizing the juxtaposition of the light hovering over the urban landscape, I was able to achieve a sense of anxiety and trepidation that Contributing Editor for Art in America, J.W. Mahoney, once described as “disturbing and unsettling.”
I would be fortunate enough to show these photographs at the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, Irvine Valley College, the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, the Target Galley in Alexandria, Virginia, and as part of an online exhibit with the Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburg.
But Eagle was more than my mechanical muse, it was also my savior. Late one night during work, my partner and I stumbled into a running gun battle and suddenly found ourselves facing the barrel of a gun. It was one of those “life passing before your eyes” moments where I found myself putting my fate in God’s hands. I called for backup and within seconds Eagle arrived. The sudden appearance of the helicopter overhead sent the gunmen running and gave us the opportunity to seek safety. I will always be indebted to the crew of Eagle for that night and am fortunate to have preserved these moments so that I may share them with you.