A Las Vegas window changed everything for Gray Malin. One day in 2011, while staying with friends in the Nevada city, Malin snapped a photo from his hotel room overlooking the pool. The image became his desktop background, then inspired a helicopter flight over Miami Beach, then became the basis of his most famous works to date.
Malin followed up his Miami adventure with trips to Australia, Brazil, South Africa, the UAE, and more. In the last five years, he has photographed beaches on six continents for his series “A La Plage.” Today the images grace iPhone cases and gift wrap, water bottles and walls, beach towels and swim shorts. They can also be found in his best-selling 2016 book, Beaches.
To capture his famous bird’s eye views, Malin photographs from doorless helicopters. He must navigate complex legalities and weather conditions, and find the right camera settings with limited time, all while precariously leaning out the door of the chopper. It’s worth the effort, the photographer says, because his seaside subjects never cease to amaze.
“Every beach has its own unique qualities,” he told Slate, “but overall I believe ‘the beach’ is universal, whether it be a rocky beach in Italy or the white sands St. Barths, the one thing that is constant is that the beach makes everyone feel relaxed and happy.”
Indeed, it’s hard to look at Malin’s photographs without feeling both joy and a pang of jealousy. His aerial angles reveal scenes that are almost impossibly vibrant and playful. These beaches are lively and luxurious, full of bright colours and dynamic patterns and interesting shapes. It’s no wonder the name Gray Malin is practically synonymous with paradise.