Photography, Straight Up

Like most people, I have fond childhood memories of laying the grass, staring up at the clouds trying to make any sense of the “pictures” I was seeing. I would go back and forth with whoever was next to me and giggle profusely when what they saw as a witch, I saw as a dog. It was honest, pure, good and clean fun. It was even more fun when we spun around as fast as we could before plopping down, eyes toward the sky. Of course, cloud pictures get semi-trippy when you add in the spins. Regardless, for a while, it was a glimpse into my creativity – making me think outside of the box without really making me ‘think’ much at all. What could be better than that?

It’s amazing how much that exercise could help in everyday life. So often, all we need is a new perspective to come up with a fresh idea. If we just look at something from a different angle, we could get past our creative blockage and find originality amidst the clutter. Luckily for straight shooters like myself, there are artists out there that help us to do just that. They take our minds and turn them just so, exposing us to all sorts of fresh perspectives in the process.

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Cameron Neilson is one of those artists – a photographer, to be exact. Neilson began experimenting with photography at an early age in Portland, Oregon. He was inspired and intrigued by his dad making prints in a home-based darkroom. By the age of ten he had learned advanced skills such as processing his own film and making prints. At some point, Neilson decided to try his hand at freelance photography.

Early in his freelance career, Cameron got a hold of skillsets such as fashion, portrait and product photography. Soon after college, Neilson moved to Jackson Hole where his commercial work featuring architectural subjects began to gain worldwide recognition.

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Today, he is described as specializing in beauty, architecture and interior photography. He has experienced immense success with his work being featured in publications such as Outside Magazine, Western Interiors and Design, Outside Traveler, Coastal Living, SkyWest Magazine and many, many more. He has also had the opportunity to work with clients such as Marriot, Bulgari, Swarovski, Aloft, Starwood Hotels and more. Neilson is based in New York.

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In 2012, Neilson started a photography series that helped him to collect even more street cred. The series, called ‘Straight Up’, is a collection of architectural images made with a leveled camera pointed – you guessed it – straight up.

When describing the project, Neilson coolly states, “Though certainly iconic, this very narrow viewpoint doesn’t fully resonate the ebb and flow of daily city life.” He also goes onto explain:

“The repetitive patterns are fairly characteristic to each city and taken as a whole create a unique spatial fingerprint. The resulting photographs bring back a sense of youthful discovery – the feeling of lying in the grass and looking to the sky – finding shapes in clouds, trees or in this case between buildings and their surroundings. The abstract point of view is a challenge at times – particularly in a world where we often look straight ahead, or mostly down.”

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The concept for Straight Up was born in New York City, and has since grown to encompass twenty-four cities in thirteen countries. Each city in the collection is carefully photographed in the same way, using the same viewpoints. This allows cities and images to be easily compared, dissected in such a way that reflects the history, culture, economics and needs of a city as shown in the way they were built – from the ground up.

Some of the cities included in Neilson’s project thus far include Berlin, Prague, Venice, Budapest, Florence, Oslo, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Jackson Hole.

Although these pictures are nice to look at, I think they also serve as a pertinent reminder. For me, it is a reminder that old things can regain their charm if you look at them in new ways. It is also a true encouragement to keep pushing to see something different amongst the ordinary – there is always new beauty to discover in day-to-day life. In conclusion, I can admit that I shouldn’t be stuck in my view of anything – straight up.

Now, while I may not be spinning in circles and submitting myself to grass stains galore anytime soon, I will certainly seek out new and refreshing takes on old, worn perspectives. Maybe if I look up this time, I will see a witchy cloud instead of one that barks back.

*** Although the artist currently only has a whopping 47 posts, you can keep up with the Straight Up photo project (and Cameron Neilson) via his Twitter account, where he features the bio “I photograph everything straight up. Literally.”

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