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Drone Art

Photo artist Jerry Tovo & son, Jim, collaborate to create aerial images of Kirkwood Train Station

"A Lazy Sunday Morning Kirkwood Missouri," an up-high image from father and son Jerry and Jim Tovo. Father and son collaborated on the image using drone photography. (click for larger version)

September 14, 2018
Photojournalist Jerry Tovo likes to say that he "doesn't do pretty," but he broke that rule when he put together a panoramic image with the help of his son, Jim, which he calls, "A Lazy Sunday Morning Kirkwood Missouri."

The poster-like photograph, which has the iconic Kirkwood Train Station as a focal point, can be viewed at OA Gallery in Kirkwood beginning Sept. 15. The gallery is nestled in historic Downtown Kirkwood on Argonne Drive directly across from the train station and just a block from the Farmers' Market area.

"Some have called this work, 'drone art,' and that works for me," said Tovo. "It's a way to meld airborne technology with an eye toward art to produce something new and interesting. The Kirkwood Train Station and the pastoral surroundings are a perfect subject.

"Short of the St. Louis Gateway Arch, Kirkwood's train station is likely one of the most painted, sketched and photographed scenes in the St. Louis area," Tovo added.

Drones are unmanned, remotely-piloted air vehicles. The military began the age of drones in 2001, but there are now literally millions of commercial drones sold worldwide. They can fly vertically like helicopters and can be equipped with sophisticated technology.

Fog engulfs the Jefferson Barracks Bridge in this drone-taken photograph from Jerry and Jim Tovo.

"I conceived and directed the shot while Jim navigated and positioned his drone to allow for a view of the station as never before seen," said Tovo. "For me, an interesting hook in all this is that the photos are a collaboration between father and son the father a somewhat respected photographer and his former studio manager son."

The father and son have worked together on some other photographic duets, including a collection of images of the Soldiers' Memorial in downtown St. Louis. The recently-renovated war memorial includes inscriptions of St. Louis residents lost in World War I.

"We had a calamity when Jim's drone hit a building and fell 14 stories," said Tovo. "I was very impressed by my son's calm and stoic reaction. We just did not calculate the circular path of the drone in the best fashion."

Now well into his 70s, Tovo is a former drill sergeant from the Vietnam War era. He has photographed military subjects before, and area residents may remember his 2013 show at the Missouri History Museum entitled, "I Was A Soldier."

The museum show captured the plight of homeless veterans around the country. The gritty portraits and accompanying stories were viewed by more than 32,000 visitors.

"In the case of what we've done in Kirkwood, we have made a successful transition from an older, traditional shooter of photo art to a modern twist of digital drone art," said Tovo. "It results in a peaceful and colorful scene that captures civic pride worth viewing.

"Drones have a negative connotation because of their military use and the invasion of privacy issues," said Tovo. "They also can have some problems with liability issues, but they are more controllable and sophisticated now than ever before. There is certainly more drone art in our future. My son, Jim, prefers to call it aerial art."

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