Have you ever looked at the world upside down? Maybe as a little kid you hung your head over the side of the sofa or the bed and pictured yourself as Spider-Man, walking on the ceiling. Maybe you’re flexible enough today to bend over and look through your legs thanks to those yoga classes. Either way, once you are upside down—and you’ve gotten past the sensation of the blood rushing to your head—you see a whole new world. I remember doing this as a child and being fascinated by how everything could change so much in such an easy way. What was so familiar was now surprisingly and instantly surreal. It was strange, unsettling, exciting and delightful all at the same time. All with a simple change of perspective.
Looking at the world upside down is just one of the different angles architectural photographer Francisco Marin chose in his latest series of images. We’re all accustomed to seeing buildings from afar and from our daily point of view. But Marin got close, pointed his lens toward the sky or ceiling or at a certain part of a structure and focused in—bringing out new forms and experiences. And while you are looking up or in a different direction, you can’t necessarily tell which way is up. Marin’s photos can be approached from any angle, creating new abstract designs while toying with your sense of orientation and familiarity. Having trained as an architect in his native Mexico, Marin understands how design is supposed to work from the usual angles. And that’s precisely what pushed him to go further.
"I try to find ways to look at the geometry and the organic parts of architecture and bring those out in new ways that people don’t usually see, not even the architect.”
“Pieces of architecture offer me the challenge of finding different ways to appreciate it,” says Marin. “Architecture is so much more than what is found in daily life. Not everything needs to be at eye level and looking in the same direction. I try to find ways to look at the geometry and the organic parts of architecture and bring those out in new ways that people don’t usually see, not even the architect.”
A change in perspective can be fun and magical to create and enjoy, but why bother? Why should anyone take the time or expend the mental energy to produce and confront a new point of view? Life is busy. There are many troubles in the world. And sometimes it’s just enough to get through the day.
For some, a sense of joy and play might be a good enough answer. After all, with any luck, life should be enjoyed. But engaging in a change of perspective is so much more important than that. It is critical to our future.
Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has argued that, by many measures, human life now is better than at any time in human history. As a species, we are living longer, leading healthier lives, eating better and are safer than ever before. This is true—on the whole. But those facts don’t capture any given person’s station in life. Many people struggle every day. Also, one can see in the daily headlines that changes in the world order are happening, and maybe not all for the good. Societies, always cursed with divisions, seem to be fracturing in many parts of the world. That could end poorly for everyone.
One way to counter all of these difficulties is perspective. Ultimately, all of us can only view the expansiveness of life through a narrow straw—through one narrow point of view. But maybe once in a while, we can set try to set the straw down, look up and around, and appreciate more of what is before us. If we all can find ways to take in another’s worldview, some understanding and empathy could emerge.
“The ultimate goal of photography is to explore a different way to perceive things.”
But how do we do that? How do we get ourselves into this new frame of mind?
There are many ways we can alter our perspective. We can go out and talk with others. We can travel the world and explore. Alternatively, we can meditate and reflect. All of these are valuable. But the arts—from books and magazines to music to movies to painting and, of course, photography— plays a critical role, as well. The arts can give us that special bit of boost, special help, to get to a new angle on things.
“The ultimate goal of photography is to explore a different way to perceive things,” Marin says. “With architectural photography, I try to play with light and shadow and call forth something new in what’s been built. I want people to think about things in ways they’ve never thought about and put them out of their comfort zone, but in the end, in ways that delight them, too.”
That’s a gift—to be delighted while also practising how to change perspective. In fact, take a moment right now and give it a try. The photos in Marin’s series have been created to be enjoyed from any direction. Turn this magazine around and about. Turn it on its side or upside down. Don’t feel silly. Take Marin’s images and make new ones of your own in your mind. Change your perspective. You, and the world, will likely be better for it.
Photos were taken with either a Leica M10, Leica TL2 or Leica CL.
Text by Bill Poorman, photographs by Francisco Marin. This article was originally published in the September issue of Esquire Singapore.