Behind the Project: NYC From Above

In this series, we’ll look deeper into some of the projects on that were especially admired in our community. This time, we spoke with Navid Baraty, an Engineer turned Photographer whose Behance project “Intersection” has been picked up everywhere from National Geographic to CBS New York. We spoke to him about how he get access to these incredible vantage points, and his process.  Follow Navid on Facebook or Twitter.

What was your inspiration for this project?
The idea first came to me after lunch one afternoon in 2009 in a Tokyo skyscraper. I looked down at the street below and noticed an amazing scene of geometric patterns dotted with umbrella-wielding pedestrians. I really couldn’t believe how geometric it all looked from above. It was almost as if someone designed the Tokyo street with my vantage point in mind. I realized that all the perfectly parallel lines, precise angles and thoughtful proportions were really a reflection of Japanese culture and its meticulous attention to detail and artistic presentation.

When I moved to NYC in 2010, I wanted to continue this series and see what New York looked like from above. Everyone walks around Manhattan looking up at the city, but very few get to look down. Watching NYC from above, you really get a sense of the energy and flow of the city–the constant stream of yellow taxis lining the avenues, the waves of pedestrians hurriedly crossing at the change of traffic signals, little figures disappearing into the subway stations, the chorus of honking horns and sirens. It’s all so rhythmic.

A photograph from Intersection | Tokyo

Can you describe your process in creating this project?
There’s been a lot of wild speculation as to how I create these photos. Some people think I have a side job as a helicopter pilot or window washer. When Flickr featured them on their blog, they assumed I was walking around Manhattan with a camera attached to a kite. Some have even called me Spiderman. I actually just take all of these on building rooftops and lean over the edge. A lot of times I have to wrap the camera strap around my arms really tight and extend my arms way over the edge to get the angle I want.

Did anything interesting happen as a result of the success of this project?
My Intersection series is definitely one of my most popular sets of work and has been featured all around the web–everywhere from National Geographic to CBS New York to My Modern Metropolis. I’ve had lots of people contact me about the series through my website. Most recently, BMW licensed one from my NYC series for an upcoming print campaign.

Did you go through many versions and iterations before coming up with these final pieces?
I take many photos of the same intersection or stretch of road from lots of different angles. When I get home and do the edits, I decide on which work best. I also tend to do more iterations when I’m extending my arms out over the edge since I can’t actually look through the lens. It can definitely take quite a long time before I get a photo I’m happy with, sometimes hours. I’ve been on a roof for a couple of hours before waiting for the light on the street to be just right. I’ve found the shots work best on overcast days.

Do you feel that this project is “done,” or is there anything you’d like to improve on or change in the future?
I don’t feel this series is done at all. I’d love to continue it in other cities as long as I can find ways to get access to building rooftops. That’s always the tricky part. I also plan to return to some of the NYC locations at night and recreate the shots when the city is lit up.