For The Past 5 Years NYC Mattress Salesman Takes To The Sky Above The Big Apple To Capture Stunning Aerial Shots Of Central Park In Autumn
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In a year turned upside down, it's perhaps fitting that some of the most inspiring and in-demand photographs have been taken from the air by a mattress salesman with a fear of heights.
Craig Fruchtman hates flying but every fall for the past five he has clambered into a helicopter and taken to the skies above his beloved New York City to capture the majesty of Central Park as the leaves on the trees turn to flame.
In mid-November he returned to the heavens and took some breathtaking shots on a day when the weather and the colours of the park were perfect.
"I think it's the most beautiful part of the city and probably the most romantic part of the city," the Central Park angel says. "I'm sure there's some sad stories in the park too - people go there to grieve. But it's a spectacle and when you're up in the air and you see it in all it's full majesty it takes your breath away.
"I'm super afraid of heights, but I'm not afraid in the helicopter - I feel more like I'm on a bus. I feel very calm up there. I feel like I'm secure.
"I tell the pilot what I want to do and choreograph the shot, and he flies across the park from one end to the other. The flight lasts about half an hour and every year I try to capture a better shot than I did the year before, using the photographic knowledge I have gained. It takes a really steady hand to get the perfect shot. It's a little bumpy up there."
The former textile manufacturer and mattress mogul found his passion for landscape photography shortly after discovering his love for sky-high shots and now he dreams of snapping bird's-eye views of Iceland - a country he fell in love with following a trip at the beginning of 2020. But he's committed to coming back to the heart of the Big Apple every year to take another bite at his favourite park, where he has enjoyed walks with his father and where he went to mourn his sister's death.
"There's just something about Central Park," Fruchtman adds. "I've gone there during good times, I walked there to grieve the loss of my sister. It's the one place you can just chill. The whole city is about moving quick but Central Park is where you slow down."
Craig's views from above have turned him into somewhat of a viral sensation with the world at large clamouring for his breathtaking shots of New York, and he so loves his work he has turned his Craig's Beds mattress store on 38th Street in the Garment Center into a makeshift gallery, where he hopes people will check out his art while bed shopping in year when business has fallen flat.
One shot that he's particularly proud of that is on display is a rare winter photo he took from several thousand feet up on a "snow day", revealing, "My hands were so cold I couldn't tell if I was actually taking the picture or not. The city was covered in snow."
The photographer's passion rubs off and reminds you there's inspiration everywhere, despite what has been a miserable 2020 for so many - something Craig sees from on high: "Everyone is talking about how difficult 2020 is, but this year the fall is really beautiful... There is such a strong colour in the trees... and if anything the park is busier than usual. People can't go to Broadway or the movies, they're not having vacations and going out with their friends, but Central Park is still a place where you can get together."
So, how long will our reluctant adventurer take to the skies for his annual fall fly-over - for as long as his nerve holds up.
"I could be doing it for the rest of my life," he smiles with a glint in his eye, before coming back down to earth and adding, "I do have anxiety on the days before I fly. I don't know how much longer the other side of my head is going to win over the side of my head that's afraid of heights."