Uber Creator Spotlight: Designers Who Photograph their Cities
A remarkable, chance collaboration united two talented photographers from Uber’s design team.
Spotlight is a Q&A session with the multi-talented creators on Uber’s design team. In this session we hear from two Uber designers that have one thing in common- they’re both accomplished photographers outside the office who were featured in the Shot on iPhone 7 campaign. Jeremy Perez-Cruz and Cocu Liu tell Eric Burns about what motivates them to explore their cities through the lens of a camera.
Eric Burns: It’s wild that you were both among the 12 photographers selected worldwide for the Shot on iPhone 7 Campaign earlier this year. What was the best part of that experience?
Jeremy Perez-Cruz: Any reason to take photographs is a good reason. If someone says take photographs all night in New York City, that’s something I do most nights anyways. But besides my personal joy, other people got to see my photos.
Cocu Liu: It was a whole night, which I had never done before. I saw scenes I had never seen before in San Francisco. It’s very different than New York City. It’s much darker because it’s so foggy. I expected to see sunset and sunrise but it was too dark and foggy.
EB: How did you get started with photography? Anyone inspire you?
CL: I started in high school with buggy digital cameras. About six years ago I got the iPhone 5. That camera was a game changer. I practiced everyday and posted online. When I got responses, I took more and more and improved through iteration.
JPC: My dad was an informal photographer and commercial artist who gifted me an old Canon AE-1 film camera in high school. I used to be a touring musician, and I’d take it on the road and take photographs of bands during all our down time. I moved to New York when I got my first iPhone when Instagram came out. I’d document my walks to the office. Each time I posted, I’d get a little encouraging feedback. It just sort of ballooned from there. Since then, a day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t taken a photo.
CL: It’s kind of like exploring your own city, and the city is basically your canvas.
EB: Jeremy, why all the photos of people with umbrellas?
JPC: [Laughs] I think of photography as stills from films that don’t exist. Everyday you can view things that are cinematic, but people just gloss them over. They don’t pay attention to a flock of birds crossing over the street. They walk down the main path but they don’t go around that alley. They walk up the stairs but they don’t look down. I’m fascinated with the cinematic effects of fog, rain, puddles, steam, and reflections. So, I shoot a lot of people with umbrellas which is a more activated silhouette than a standard silhouette.
EB: Cocu, you have over 110,000 followers on Instagram where we see very polished shots of urban settings. Talk about your process behind the scenes. You shoot unique perspectives from high in the air. How do you do that?
CL: The shots from the air I take with my drone. Sometimes I climb up a building. Picking the time is really important. At sunset, after work, the light is beautiful. And I experiment going somewhere in the rain or fog which creates a very unique atmosphere in the city. I just edit all the photos on my phone with Filterstorm and VSCO Cam App.
EB: How does your photography life influence your work?
JPC: It keeps me fresh. I need an outlet for creativity that isn’t associated with a key performance indicator. Walking the city with the camera around my neck is almost meditative. It’s a nice escape. I’ve been really interested in capturing the personality of cities. That helps me better celebrate cities by understanding how people dress, what are the colors, and I feed that back into my work as a brand designer all the time.
CL: I think photography and product design are very different in one way. In product design you need to collaborate with other people. In photography you make all your own decisions. To go somewhere or not go somewhere. To take or not to take. Post it or not post it. I like being in control. And since the best time to take a photo is before or after work, when you work you don’t waste your time.
EB: What do you say to all those people who want to do something creative after work but say, “I don’t have the time or energy left.”
JPC: It’s hard for me to empathize with that because “can’t stop, won’t stop” is sort of my motto. For better or worse. I have lots of interests. I love making music. I take cooking classes. I’m so curious and literally never bored ever.
CL: Just follow your heart. If it feels like you need to do something, just do it.
JPC: I don’t think people are one dimensional. I think there are things they maybe don’t realize they are interested in. Be curious. Try many things. Once you find joy in one thing, you’ll keep doing it.
UPDATE: Jeremy’s photo was also featured in the Apple Special Event at the Steve Jobs Theater when they introduced the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. See screengrab below from the recording of the keynote. (His shot makes an appearance at 1:04:55.)
At Uber we enjoy celebrating our creative team members and the broad spectrum of design. We value the pursuit of various forms of creativity and believe those experiences inspire our team, improve our products, and ultimately enhance the experience of our end users.
Checkout the next edition of this series: Uber Creator Spotlight: Drawing for 27 Weeks.
Learn more about our design team’s work, people, and events: www.uber.design.
Cocu Liu is a product designer at Uber focused on designing data-driven maps and crafting data visualization tools for the Marketplace team and self-driving car team. A San Francisco resident via Beijing and Chicago, he is a smartphone photographer fascinated by urban landscapes who believes “the best camera is the one that’s with you.”
Cocu was chosen by CBRE as The Urban Photographer of the Year (2015, Mobile category), and his work was featured for Apple World Gallery in 2015.
See more of his photos at instagram.com/cocu_liu.
Jeremy Perez-Cruz is a multi-disciplinary designer and innovator specializing in brand design and marketing. He’s currently a design manager and creative director on Uber’s Brand Marketing team.
See more of his photos at instagram.com/sleepingplanes.
Eric Burns is inspired by other creatives who pursue their passions. He’s a product design manager at Uber focusing on the employee experience to ensure that every Uber employee has opportunities to thrive. His teams are hiring product designers, UX researchers, software engineers, and product managers in San Francisco. If you’re interested, email him at email@example.com.