Research Project Proposal

This is my detailed Research Project Proposal outlining my plans for the how I intend to develop my project over the following three modules (Informing Contexts, Strategies & Surfaces and Sustainable Prospects).

My proposal will outline:

  • my research objectives: the topics, themes and subjects I plan to explore and investigate
  • details of progress to date on the project
  • the resources and skills I anticipate I will need, and how I intend to acquire them,
  • a rough schedule of key activities and/or stages of my project
  • any costs you I will incur, and how I will meet these
  • a bibliography of key critical resources relevant to my subject area. I may wish to subdivide into sources consulted to date, and key resources I to intend to examine over the following modules
  • A Risk Assessment Form identifying any risks associated with my Research Project plans

The purpose of the proposal is to help to effectively plan and map out the development of my project, including my practical and contextual research. It will be an engaging and enthusiastic document that communicates to you the reader/viewer both my passion and enthusiasm, and the relevance and importance of the subject matter of the project.

In considering what my major research project will be, I first have to decide which route to take? It could be a broad practice of my own photography to date, or it could also be the narrow practice of my newly acquired skills in imaging that is still historically relatively new.

I really want to discover and explore this (new to me) medium that has yet to be the everyday in image creation – unlike traditional DSLRs and smartphones that are firmly established as the everyday go to for image creation for most people. Professionals and amateurs alike.

In considering which direction to take my research project, the greatest dilemma I have right now is choice. Choice of taking a route with globally few images available in comparison to millions of traditional DSLRs and smartphones that have literally billions of images taken worldwide.

I am at this stage being deliberately vague about exactly what my newly acquired skills in imaging are, in an attempt to ask the reader to try to think about how I will be able to create a research project without using a traditional DSLR camera or smartphone.

Knowing I must adhere to strict legal considerations may assist the reader in coming to the correct conclusion as to exactly what my newly acquired imaging skills are.  There are other considerations that apply to my ability to complete my research project before I even take a single image with my newly acquired skills:

  • To have certain official documentation awarded to me
  • Be in possession of PL (Public Liability) insurance
  • Have completed Nationally recognized training
  • Sit an exam and assessment to quality
  • Be bound to only take images where legally allowed
  • Have someone to assist me whom I must be able to communicate with
  • Take images in strict conditions

As I now reveal what my newly acquired imaging skill are, it would be interesting to know who many readers would have said I qualified as a drone pilot. Drones are also referred to as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), SUAs (Small Unmanned Aircrafts) or quad copters by the CAA. Manufacturers of drones also refer to them as multi-rotor aircraft and quad copters.

The Civil Aviation Authority control everything that happens in UK airspace by way of regulations known as ANOs (Air Navigation Orders). And it is these ANOs that every aircraft operating in UK airspace must abide by. Except for the military (in certain circumstances) and  Royal flights unrestricted.

My research objectives are to show the world around us from a different perspective – from above. The world around us is a pretty big statement, this can be interpreted as being views from above (of landscapes and objects) not usually seen before. This perspective alone will engage the viewer, encourage discussion, invite critique, inspection and realisation.

It is important for the viewer to know at this stage that drone pilots are restricted to flying no higher (from the point of take off) than 400 feet and no further away from the pilot/operator than 500 meters or within Visual Lone of Sight but not exceeding 500 meters. It is interesting to see that the CAA use a mixture of feet and meters in their ANOs. Working within these confines will be interesting and explorative.

I inform the reader of these restrictions so the viewer of the images created can know we do not have unrestricted airspace to fly in. There may also be further restrictions I will call upon the explain if and when the image dictates explanation.

Originally, my Research Project was going to be based on an historic International Heritage site, to capture and map the site in its entirety having negotiated exclusive access. Unfortunately, due to weather restrictions/conditions, submission timelines/deadlines and availability of key personnel on site, I am unable to complete this as part of my formal Research Project in sufficient time. However, I am still going to complete this work as an independent project and may well submit it as a piece on its own merits in the future depending on its outcome.

I am describing my photographic practice philosophically as ‘non land-based’. There are no other photographers that describe their work as ‘non land-based’ so I am officially claiming this! Non land-based photography includes (in all instances) images I have taken Above Ground Level (AGL) or Above Sea Level (ASL). Non land-based photography, is a technological, digital, remote, image-making process I have been planning to explore since 2015. I particularly liked the following three images from submissions by Ambrose Lune, Ricardo Matiello and respectively that I discovered during a Google search during 2015. I really liked the perspective of these images and immediately wanted to explore this way of creating images from over/above ground. Not too many practitioners were specializing in this field and I knew that not everyone would be able to replicate these images or this style from this perspective.


©Ambrose Lune Research Project Proposal

©Ambrose Lune 2015

© Ricardo Matiello Research Project Proposal

© Ricardo Matiello 2015

© Research Project Proposal


It was important to me to be able to create a practice that was not easily copied or replicated, believing in my own ability to create images from a non land-based perspective would get my work recognized, not only because of content, but also because of the comparative scarcity of the amount of non land-based images compared to all other forms of land based photography over the last 150 years.

My idea and plans were slowly coming together. Although we had the British weather to contend with, along with our lack of clear blue water around our coastlines and waterways, if I wanted to compete with other International practitioners seen all too often in their work from around the world, I would need to be creative.

This alone, would make the creation of my new practice contextually challenging. And it was for this reason I decided to look closer to home and what was already around me. The ordinary, the mundane, the banal – a pylon, a telegraph pole, a field for example. Inspired by Willaim Eggleston’s book From Black and White to Color (2014).

Joanna Zylinska’s new book ‘Nonhuman Photography’ begins with her telling us about James Balog’s efforts at the beginning of the twenty-first century to photograph the movement of glaciers in Iceland, Alaska and the Antarctic. She also tells us how he invested in several Nikon DSLR’s, equipping them with microcomputers set up to capture images over several years. (Zylinksa 2017:1). Zylinska’s anecdotal story “ …encapsulates all of the key concerns of Nonhuman Photography. On one hand, the production process involved with shooting the multi-layer collection of images of glaciers from high vantage points in extreme weather conditions signals that today, in the age of CCTV, drone media, medical body scans, and satellite imaging, photography is increasingly decoupled from human agency and vision.” (2017:1,2)

Even at this early stage of development of argument, I can see that Zylinska will be siting James Balog’s glacier movement works as attributed to nonhuman photography. In as much as Balog was not there to take the photograph as the images were ‘taken’ by microcomputer. Although at an early stage of critical, conceptual and contextural development, I would initially contest such suggestions because I see still the human connection in capturing the image – programming the microcomputers, setting the shot up, technical hurdles to overcome, monitoring and data collation and so on. All of which need human input. This debate will continue, but for now, this should get interesting as time progresses and I develop my Research Project.


In order to understand my practice, I need to explain the technology used. It’s important to understand how my non land-based photography is achieved.

The equipment I use is manufactured by world leading aerial platform manufacturer, DJI of China. I use a DJI Inspire 2 along with a selection of interchangeable lenses to use attached the DJI Zenmuse X5s camera via the UAV’s gimbal. Capable of filming broadcast/cinematography quality in up to 5.2k resolution and capturing still images at 20.8MP in bursts of up to 14fps. My practice will all be undertaken using a radio controlled quadcopter – also know and referred to as either a drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.


To produce a research project that will clearly demonstrate my practice in both commercial and social applications with a view to becoming one of a few – if not the only – student to graduate in the UK using the restriction and discipline of non land-based photography. To explore the current use of UAV imaging in the commercial sectors in order to establish a clear understanding and in depth mastery of non land-based photography and its contributory application to global development.

Non land-based photography is rapidly gaining a worldwide audience as the hunger for high quality artistic images increases. The commercial demand for images of places we have seen, from perspectives we have not seen, is immense. Fine if the photographer lives in a beautiful part of the world or has an established practice giving privileged access to the same. In my case, I don’t. And it is because of this that I chose my Subjects carefully.

Working Title

Confines of Open Space


My Research Project Proposal’s topic is to explore, investigate and contextualize non land-based photography using remote digital technology within the strict legal framework governing UK air space.


Non land-based photography defined by an image created AGL or ASL.


Contextual banal and mundane objects from an aerial perspective in and around my own locality and immediate surroundings in Cambridgeshire, UK.

Explore and investigate

1) Explore the importance of non land-based photography commercially.

2) Investigate and identify four leading authors that have published non land-based

images and contextualize my own work in exploring outcomes.

3) Investigate the benefits of the implementation of UAV photography and explore

how commercial opportunities with a view to an exhibition.

4) Collaborative methodology with another UAV pilot to share in the joint creation of

combined lens based images with similar themes to examine theoretical backgrounds.

Details of Progress to Date

Since the start of my studies at Falmouth University, I have begun to develop my new practice of non land-based photography. I have realised how much prevailing weather plays in my ability to capture images, taking away the opportunity of any spontaneity or ability to simply start taking images whenever and wherever I like. Although fully aware that any kind of aerial imaging (and flight in general) is dependent on weather, I hadn’t realised just how much impact this would play in the overall scheme of my studies given I have deadlines to meet for submissions. I have to work around the weather making forward planning a challenge.

I am discovering that what matters in my photography practice is how I can make my subject interesting? If my question is: what is interesting in a space of apparently uninteresting things? Then my answer is: it’s perspective that is interesting and not necessarily the subject. I am trying to find beauty in the banal and ordinary. I do not want to judge my practice/images as good or bad, I see them in equal terms and without discrimination.

In my Work in Progress portfolio, you will see I have begun to create images in a contextual perspective that is not familiar. This is a form of education, an opportunity to see things that have always been there, that we know are there, but have only been seen by the few – designers, engineers, manufacturers and construction workers for example –  that also has a really interesting conceptual perspective. The more I practiced with this, the more I liked what I created. It was ordinarily interesting. We all know what a these look like from our own usually observed perspective, but have we ever looked down on one, or viewed one parallel, from its own height or from above at right angles to the ground.

Hopefully, although in its historical photographic infancy, my work will engage the viewer, provide food for thought and visually encourage meaningful consideration and a longer thought process while our minds decipher how the image was created.

To assist me in doing this contextually, I needed to research existing practitioners and discovered some that interested me not only for their visual awareness, but also their academic backgrounds – not always photographic. Here are my top ten contemporary aerial image creators that inspire me most (in no particular order and not always using UAVs as some used full-size helicopters):


Andy Yeung –


Ruben Wu –


Karolis Janulis –


Kacper Kowalski –


Amos Chapple –


Calin Stan –

Francesco Cattuto –


Placido Faranda –


Timo Lieber –


Timo Lieber –

Undefeated by such limitations, I feel I have started to produce some interesting work within my Subject areas of contextual, banal and mundane images from an aerial perspective to introduce the viewer to my work allowing me to experience critical feedback from peers and viewers. This has been a positive experience and has helped me to continue to experiment with my practice.

Resources & Skills

I have been planning to launch my new practice for around 18 months and the main resource I have identified as needing is the technology that will allow me to operate as a non land-based practice. The main skill I needed was to obtain a Permission to Fly for Commercial Operation (PFCO) awarded by the Civil Aviation Authority. In order to obtain this, I had to sit a written test, submit to them a Flight Operations Manual and complete a practical flight assessment. All technical and hardware recourses and skills required are already obtained and PFCO granted.

Key Activities and Stages

All key activities and project stages will be subject to weather permitting.

The four categories I will Explore and Investigate as listed above shall be completed in order of listing ie:

Stage 1: Explore the importance of non land-based photography commercially

Work in progress commenced 2017

Stage 2: Investigate and identify four authors that have published non land-based

images to discover contextual similarities in my own practice

Approx May 2018

Stage 3: Explore the benefits of the implementation of UAV photography and identify commercial opportunities with a view to an exhibition

Approx Sept 2018

Stage 4: Collaborative methodology with another UAV pilot to share in the joint creation of combined lens based images

Approx March 2019


The main cost in setting up my new non land-based practice has been investment in technology, training and legal company formations and compliance. The costs have already been met. There are no operational costs as I already have a commercial art studio I can work from.

Bibliography of Key Resources Consulted to Date

In summary, William Eggleston’s book ‘From Black and White to Color’ he photographed ordinary boring objects in his home town of Memphis where he spent most of his life. Eggleston’s objective was to make the boring, mundane, banal and ordinary appear interesting. He did this because he could, not because he was poor and couldn’t afford to travel beyond his home town. Eggleston really admired Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work thinking it was real art. If he could make a fake Cartier-Bresson, he would have considered that absolute perfection (2014).

The images in this book have given me some ideas I will try to contextually adapt to an aerial perspective and bring into my own practice.


Key Resources to Examine Over All Modules within Key Activities and Stages

Joanna Zylinska Nonhuman Photography Cover

Joanna Zylinska: Nonhuman Photography (ISBN: 978-0262037020 – 2017)

Murat German Murat German Book Cover 2016

Murat German: By Murat German (ISBN: 978-8857228693 – 2016)

Richard Misrach Book Cover

Richard Misrach: The Mysterious Opacity of Other Beings (ISBN: 978-1597113274 – 2015)

Aerial photographs

Jeffrey Milstein: Aerial Photographs of LA & NY (ISBN: 978-0500544891 – 2017)



Eggleston, William, 2014. From Black and White to Color

Zylinska, Joanna, 2017. Nonhuman Photography


MA Photography Risk Assessment Form