Article by Alice Yoo from My Modern Met
As one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas, New York City has been photographed millions of times over. Its impossibly high skyscrapers, its distinct neighborhoods, and its famous attractions make the city any photographer’s dream. Both amateur and professional photographers flock to the city to capture its incredible energy but few, if any, have had the access or ability to do it quite like Navid Baraty.
Born and raised in Ohio, Baraty worked as an engineer but felt unfilled. One day, he decided to take a giant leap and pursue his passion for photography. This meant more than a career switch; he moved first to San Francisco and then to New York City. To reveal the immense scale of his new hometown and its distinct character, Baraty felt he had to shoot it from an impossibly high angle.
Stemming from a philosophy of reimagination that is near and dear to Lincoln, Baraty believes in capturing the city’s authenticity in an imaginative way. He shoots New York’s busy intersections not from the street level, but from high above – precariously dangling his camera over rooftops for an incomparable perspective. The ageless but ever-changing essence of the Big Apple unfolds below into “a feast for the eyes.”
These sky-high New York City intersection shots are now Baraty’s most recognizable images. He recently began expanding upon this series by shooting at night. He has plans to carry it even further by taking photos during the different seasons and in other major cities. “I would love to get on some New York City or Chicago rooftops in the winter to capture snowy intersections from above,” he says. “NYC is perfect because of its abundance of skyscrapers and the energy of the city that can be felt so strongly from above,” Baraty says. “Watching the pace and flow of New York City from above is amazing. The constant stream of yellow taxis lining the avenues, the waves of pedestrians hurriedly crossing with the change of traffic signals, little figures disappearing into and emerging from the subway stations, the chorus of honking horns and sirens. It’s all so rhythmic.”
We asked him for more about his techniques and creative attitude.
Disclaimer: Do not attempt any of the following techniques. Leave that to the professionals.
Q: What kind of gear do you use to take these amazing intersection shots?
A: I’ve never used a tripod or timer for any of the photos. I’ve thought about attempting some shots with a monopod, but I really like to have a firm grip on the camera with its strap wrapped around my wrist. It just seems more secure to me. I lean out as far as I can and extend my arms to get as vertical a shot as possible.
Q: You’ve recently started taking nighttime intersection shots. How is setting up those shots different?
A: The night shots are pretty much the exact same setup as the daytime shots: I lean over the edge of a rooftop with my camera securely in my grasp. Obviously, the biggest challenge at night is the darkness. I have to shoot at a much higher ISO and faster shutter speed to get a crisper image. It’s also challenging to have the buildings properly exposed nicely and not have the bright street lights too blown out.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: In my journey to becoming a photographer, I’m most proud that I gave up a very stable, secure, well-paying career as an electrical engineer to pursue my passion in life. I wasn’t happy working as an engineer and often dreaded every day. I realized that it wasn’t healthy to keep doing it and that I needed to pursue what I love, no matter how much I had to sacrifice.
About the series in general, I’m most proud that I’ve never dropped anything (or myself) off the rooftop!
Q: If you could get people to walk away with one thought, what would it be?
A: I hope the series makes people think about seeing a city, world, and even life in general in a different perspective. I’d like the photos to not only capture the feeling or essence of a city, but also to remind us that we really are quite small.