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Style + Design

This Man Has the World’s Best Job

He jets from Aspen to Australia, Antarctica to Africa. His office? An open-cockpit helicopter. But no, he's not James Bond. He's travel photographer Gray Malin

"What if I could make this my job?" What traveler hasn’t stood on a beach or summited a mountain and had that very thought. For photographer Gray Malin, realizing that dream came slowly. He started selling photographs at a flea market in Los Angeles. People responded to his eye for his home state of Texas.

Standing on a balcony above a pool in Las Vegas, Malin became enamored of that bird’s eye perspective. He decided to try shooting more from above. "When you’re shooting from a helicopter, the landscape below becomes a blank canvas, and the people and objects begin to create patterns of color and shape," Malin says.

The result was a wildly successful collection of beach photographs from Positano to Australia, Cali to Brooklyn. "I love photographing the beach because it’s so universal. Almost everyone feels something joyful when it comes to the beach. I try to bring that kind of feeling into my work; I hope to evoke those happy emotions for people experiencing my photographs," Malin says.

Malin also wants to give back to the places that have inspired him. On a trip to Antarctica, he shot a series of photos bringing beachy objects into the chilly clime to highlight the realities of global warming.

What’s next? Well his globe-trotting ways have caught the eye of Le Meridien hotels, who commissioned a global art project including a video of a visual journey around the world from Palm Springs to Bhutan, a series of fun photographic room key cards and fun prints of the brand’s pools shot from above.

Not a bad gig, eh?

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What initially inspired you to shoot your photos from above?

I love shooting from a doorless helicopter because from above the landscape below becomes a blank canvas and the people and objects begin to create patterns of color and shape.

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What draws you to a destination?

Sometimes it’s a particular event that catches my attention, like Snow Polo in St. Moritz, which I released a series for in February of this year. Or, it’s a landscape feature that’s truly spectacular.

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Most memorable travel experience?

Going to Antarctica was certainly very surreal as it’s just breathtaking; the beauty is truly spectacular.

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What are you other favorite destinations?

Namibia! At the the base of the tallest sand dunes in the world sits a thousand-year-old clay pan named ‘Dead Vlei’, or ‘Dead Marsh,’ there are skeletons of 900 year old camel thorn trees, which I photographed for my series entitled Mirage.

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What items do you collect when you travel?

I guess you could say that I collect photographs but I don’t actually collect anything specific or consistently.

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Can you talk a bit about the charities that you work with?

Often times when I’m shooting a new series I become passionate about the subject matter and there is usually some sort of philanthropic component. For example, proceeds of my Antarctica series go to the Climate Reality Project, a non-profit involved in education and advocacy related to climate change. Witnessing first hand how climate change is affecting Antarctica, I couldn’t just sit back and watch anymore.

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Does photography change the way that you interact with a destination?

Obviously, I’m always looking at things through the eye of a photographer, but I am also mindful to be present in the moment, too. It can’t always be work.

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Bucket list trip?

I’m dying to experience the nothern lights in Norway. That’s definitely at the top of the list!