Aydin Buyuktas bends drone images into otherworldly urban landscapes

Posted May 21, 2018 8:27 p.m. EDT

— Visual effects artist Aydin Buyuktas is using photography to recreate images from his dreams. Shooting cityscapes from above, he then digitally bends them toward the sky in photos reminiscent of the movie "Inception."

The resulting photo series, "Flatlands," uses these surreal, digitally-manipulated scenes to warp the viewer's sense of time and space, Buyuktas said in an email interview.

"These works show people's daily lived reality as something out of this world," he said. "I want to allow people to experience a multidimensional feeling."

Based in Istanbul since 2002, Buyuktas features many of the city's iconic landmarks in his work, such as the Grand Bazaar and the Galata Bridge. But unlike conventional drone shots, which convey a flat bird's-eye-view, his pictures bring various different perspectives together into a single picture.

To create his images, Buyuktas photographs each location from several different angles with a drone. While he used to physically collate printed images to produce the illusion of a curved and folding landscape, he now stitches his shots together using Photoshop.

"I live in Istanbul and I started shooting what was around me," Buyuktas said. "I wanted to show locations that were familiar to me in more than just three dimensions."

In the photo "Bus Station," for instance, Istanbul's busy transport hub bends into the sky, playing with the viewer's sense of perspective. Vehicles appear to defy gravity as they drive out of a city that feels both familiar and uncanny.

In "Ambarlar" (or "Warehouses"), lines of garages are stacked atop one another, appearing like the tracks of a roller coaster about to plunge from its summit.

"Mostly I try to choose places that create natural and unnatural patterns and perspectives that feel surreal," Buyuktas added.

Stranger than fiction

A visual effects artist by training, Buyuktas said his photographic worlds were inspired by science fiction. As a child, he devoured books by writers such as Isaac Asimov and H. G. Wells, becoming fascinated with concepts like wormholes, parallel universes, gravitation and the notion of bending space and time.

Buyuktas said that his warped drone images were especially influenced by the ideas of theologian Edwin Abbot, whose satirical novella "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions" is set in a two-dimensional world full of geometric figures.

Buyuktas' similarly titled "Flatlands" was initially set in Istanbul, though he has recently applied the same technique to rural American landscapes in Arizona , New Mexico, California and Texas. Over the course of one month (and around 15,000 miles), he traveled across the US to capture sprawling shots of desert railroads, cemeteries and arid farmland.

As he did in Turkey, Buyuktas sought filming permits and landowners' permission before taking his aerial shots. In addition to finding US property owners more receptive to his project', the photographer said he experienced fewer problems from the surrounding wildlife than in Istanbul, where dogs and birds can interfere with his work.

"You need to respect their ownership of territory," he said. "If they start barking, or if birds turn on your drone, you need to stop flying."