While most photographers at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards jostled to get a head-on shot of celebrities walking the red carpet, Noam Galai stayed above the madness — literally.
1.6 million likes later, you could say his approach paid off.
With permission to shoot the arrivals from the Madison Square Garden roof, Galai was able to snap a photo so unique and beautiful, Beyoncé shared it on Instagram.
How did he do it? While leaning over looking for the perfect red-carpet shot, Galai noticed Beyoncé and daughter Blue Ivy leave through a private VIP door in the step-and-repeat backdrop.
“It was a hidden place and I was the only person who could see it from my spot on the rooftop,” he said. “Usually it’s the same photos of the backdrop and posed shots. I tried to catch a different moment, and when I saw Beyoncé and Blue Ivy I knew just seeing them together with those regal dresses, it looked like heaven.”
His vantage point came with a few stipulations, including being accompanied by a Madison Square Garden security guard and a police officer at all times. But Galai soon learned that this was a help, rather than a hindrance to his creative work.
“The two officers that were there with me were really into it,” he said. “They thought that shooting from there was so cool and they helped me. Every time I was on one corner they looked on the other corner and tried to find more celebrities for me to shoot. They kept calling me over and saying, ‘Here’s Britney Spears, here’s Rihanna.’”
Another safety precaution Galai had to take was strapping himself to his equipment to eliminate the risk of anything falling on the celebrities’ heads below. “And both feet had to be on the floor at all times, not even on tiptoes or anything,” he said.
But for Galai, who was also the first photographer to get an aerial shot of the 9/11 memorial lights by helicoptering over the Hudson River, it’s simply all in a day’s work. All the precautions were worth it for the photo of Beyoncé and Blue Ivy.
“I was lucky to get it and I couldn’t have planned it,” he said. “I saw it and I was hoping I got something good — and the next day Beyoncé posted it online.”
Explore more images from the moments that defined 2016 at Getty Images’ 2016 in Focus digital experience.