Is it a bird, or is it an aircraft? Capturing Dod Miller’s Birdmen

The first Worthing Birdman took the prize from Birdman veteran Ron Freeman, who traveled at a distance of 85.9 meters from the Worthing Pier. The following year, it took the title of Steve Elkins, who flew 99.86 meters, which fell within a twig of the 100-meter goal and the PS30,000 jackpot.

Dod first encountered the human projectiles back in 1994. He said: “I believe that it was a commission because I was able to shoot it in color. I’m sure that if I shot things in the color, I wouldn’t have shot it 

He began to do it himself, changing to his trusty Rolleiflex along with the Kodak Tri-X 400 film. “The best aspect of the Rolleiflex is that, unlike the Hasselblad, which requires you to remove the backs and insert slides, it’s just opening the back, inserting the film inside, closing the back, and continuing to put the movie into your pocket then, and you’re ready to go. Day done.

A few times I was there, I just made a couple of frames and then took a look and then thought, I’m going to enjoy a pint and some chips and fish, then return home. Sometimes, I’d bring my family with me, and we’d sit at the beach and relax for a few minutes and treat it as an afternoon spent on the South Coast.’

Dod’s square format pictures show in cinematic clarity the image of a man wearing propellers on his head and a man with flippers at his feet. There are also scenes of people on the beach as well as Birdmen falling into the sea. Thirty-nine images are included in the 84-page publication released via Plague Press ( available via Setanta Books), the publishing venture founded by street-photographer Matt Stuart.

Matt Dod, who was known to help Dod occasionally Matt, appears in one of the pictures of Dod walking on Bognor Pier. Another photo features a giant of modern aviation – Sir Richard Branson. “He took the idea from me. I traveled to Gatwick with an art director I worked with to suggest that Virgin could utilize certain Birdmen photos for their public relations. They thought that it would be hilarious, but they backed off in the end, as they were not a fan of people launching themselves off piers.


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