December 5, 2014 10:45 AM EST

On Thursday, photographer Kevin Kunstadt joined the New York City protests against the grand jury decision not to charge a white NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner.

While most photographers focused their lenses on the protesters themselves, Kunstadt turned his towards the sky. He used his experience photographing airplane trails, using 20-30 second exposures, to capture the abundance of police and news helicopters above the protests — illuminating the constant surveillance.

“There was a sense of almost joyous rebellion,” Kunstadt tells TIME, “and irreverence for authority, police, and the status quo. I didn’t feel the same sadness as last week’s protests [for Michael Brown], but it was still quite emotional and beautiful to see everyone coming together.”

Protests against the police killings of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. continue throughout the country. Kunstadt understands that the act of protesting often requires a police presence, but he finds “something especially ominous” about the aerial surveillance.

“Nevertheless,” he says, “there is an inherent power in turning the gaze of the surveiller back on them, enacting surveillance of the surveillance.”

Write to Mia Tramz at mia.tramz@time.com.

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