It's impossible to analyze Loewinsohn's drone photography without addressing the affordances offered by the unique technology. The drone he uses is currently middle-of-the-road in terms of quality and price (under $1,000 with a 4K camera), but it can withstand gusts of 40 miles per hour, can last in the air for about 20 minutes at a time before a recharge, and all it needs is an iPad hookup to control the many readouts and navigational instruments. More to the point, it's good enough to allow his eye to approach places and locales that, for the entirety of the invention of photography, had been impossible to reach.
"Cameras have been around so long that pretty much everything has been photographed from 5-and-a-half feet up," Loewinsohn said.
But his body of work isn't just neat for neat's sake. There's an expertise to his composition, editing techniques (particularly when it comes to his short videos), and color effects that can only be obtained through a long history of "earthbound" photography.
Loewinsohn started young after being gifted a Kodak disk camera as a kid. In 2006, he went back to school at San Francisco State University to study photojournalism, and, in 2009, began the full-time freelance hustle. (Full disclosure: His work has appeared in these Express pages, as well as in other publications, some of which accompanied this writer's own assignments.) He'd mostly take portraits to accompany written profiles — Dan Fontes, who painted that giraffe mural under the 580 freeway; Bruce Beasley, the abstract expressionist sculptor; Brontez Purnell from The Younger Lovers; Berkeley homeless philosopher-king Hate Man — and provided occasional documentation for events like Occupy Oakland.
In 2017, he pulled the trigger on buying the drone, and soon began exploring his own backyard from above.
After his lengthy trips into the field, he uploads the best of the best shots to his Instagram account, @peoplelooklikeants. The collection is alternatingly hypnotic and illuminating, giving viewers a new idea of what it means to live in this jurisdictional mess we call the Bay Area.
So much of what makes the work important is how it reveals places that are off-limits, either due to security walls or simply the bounds of the human body. We've seen the iconic Grand Lake Theatre sign, but what about up-close? We've driven through the mess of the Grove Shafter freeway interchange, but it's only when you see it in its entirety that it looks like something from Giovanni Piranesi's "Imaginary Prisons" series. Apparently, there's a tree growing out of the roof of the baroque Mutual Stores building on International. "It's cool to just be able to explore places that are totally inaccessible," he said, carefully noting that he follows any and all FAA regulations for drone use.