We usually see the world as a narrow-angle view of the horizontal plane; our eyes, our entire design are optimized for living in a flat plane five to six feet off the ground. Looking Up provides an all-encompassing, vertical view that questions that anthropocentric basis.
I was photographing in Paris, exploring my interest in architecture when I became fascinated by the outlines of the tops of the buildings against the sky. They formed shapes and contours that I had missed all the other times I had passed by the same places. Not only do we seldom look up, but it is also difficult to see in many directions at the same time. In time came a more profound realization–that in general a photograph can break many of the limits of human visualization of the world. By looking upward and taking in a wider view, the scene changes radically from what we normally experience. As I started capturing these images, momentum built. I kept being surprised that I could create an equally true image of a scene that was radically different from the one you see with your eyes at the same spot.
As this work evolved, I’m taking that underlying theme in multiple directions. I’ve photographed at many locations capturing some of the variations that create a distinct place. Even when one looks straight up, unable to see whether there are patisseries or souks, églises or mosques, the differences are striking. I’ve followed my architectural curiosity into grand buildings to apply the same vision to ceilings of museums, opera halls, kasbahs, stations, and cathedrals. I’ve transitioned from complex scenes to emphasizing simpler and simpler graphic elements. In terms of process, I’ve come to appreciate 17th cartographic projections as one of several aesthetic choices in projecting a model of the real world onto a flat piece of paper or backlit transparency. When I started this project, I didn’t fully comprehend the diversity of work that it would lead to.
Although there is a significant amount of image processing in the creation of these images, I don’t consider them “manipulated.” If one had an imaginary camera that could capture a 300º field of view with enough dynamic range to marry a blinding sun and the deep shadows of alleyways at 100 Megapixel resolution, then these are the images that might be captured. Without such a camera, I’ve resorted to combining multiple photos from the same viewpoint to fuse together different directions and exposures and then applied mathematical projections to create the same result.
For me, photography is about seeing the world. And up is one direction we invariably forget to see.