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You've Never Seen Beaches Like This Before

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Courtesy of Gray Malin
Rimini Blue Starmint Umbrellas
With a world of wanderlust photography out there, we wouldn’t blame you for feeling like you can't take any more holiday envy, but trust us, you want to know about Gray Malin.

The LA-based photographer, whose remote office happens to be a doorless helicopter, has fast become a signature beach photographer thanks to his spin on shooting landscapes aerially. Think candy-striped parasols, brightly-coloured sun loungers and donut floats – with absolutely no drones in sight.

The 30-year-old Dallas native built up a cult following back in 2010 when his series on Prada Marfa, the permanent fashion installation in Texas, speedily sold out at a flea market as well as on his own website.

Now, he lives in West Hollywood with his husband and dog Stella, jet-setting from Bora Bora to Barcelona to shoot images for his coffee table book, merchandise (including a giant patterned swan float that Rihanna recently posted on her Snapchat) and ongoing collaboration with Le Meridien Hotels.
Courtesy of Gray Malin
Coogee Wave
Here, we speak to Gray about his enviable career and the tranquil mental getaway we experience looking at the world’s most popular beaches from his bird’s eye view...

How did your career in photography begin?
I studied photography and marketing at Boston college before starting my career in LA. My first series in 2010, called Prada Marfa, quickly became a viral success and allowed someone like me to become recognised. I didn’t have any backing or investment but the success of this series allowed me to save enough money to afford my first helicopter to shoot the next project. I was scared I might be a one hit wonder but then the aerial series took off. It was an incredible way to see the world, and social media, especially Instagram, helped build my profile.

What inspired you to start taking these aerial photos?
I was inspired by a photo I took from a hotel balcony where I was looking straight down on a giant swimming pool full of sunbathers and people splashing in the pool. I wanted to see if I could achieve more shots like this so looked into renting a helicopter and seeing a beach from the sky, I noticed how attractive the beach umbrellas and sun loungers looked from above.
How do they work logistically?
I take the aerial photographs from doorless helicopters so it’s just me and the pilot. It’s very much like hunting because we search for the scene, not necessarily the people or props, but more the landscape and its position and for interesting lines or shapes. It’s a very fluid process that can be driven by things I can’t control like the weather.

Do you have a favourite beach?
From a cultural point of view, Rio de Janeiro’s beaches are always packed full of people so they’re just incredible from above. And for the view, I love Sydney’s beaches as the water there is so stunning. Oh, and St Barts’ Grande Saline beach looks like something from a fairytale because it’s natural, untouched and picturesque in every way imaginable.
Where’s the best place for us to hang up photo art in our home?
For a small print, place it in your bathroom. It’s one of the only places your guests will have a private moment in your house or apartment. If you’re buying a larger piece of art, I’d recommend placing it above a sofa to anchor a room. I always say people should bring colour out through their accessories like picking a rug that’s not too loud and a sofa that’s bland to let the colour come through the artwork. And that way, you can always change up pillows and throws.

What beach is next on your shoot list?
The next location I’m shooting is Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It’s an area close to my heart as my family visits it a lot and it’s the most requested North American location we haven’t shot yet – it’s very classic and preppy.

Gray Malin’s Follow Me collaboration with Le Méridien Hotels will be on display in Méridien Piccadilly from 5th October starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien; graymalin.com
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