2009-12-12 / Obituaries

Robert Cameron

Robert Cameron in 2006 with his photographs of the West Bluff on Mackinac Island. Robert Cameron in 2006 with his photographs of the West Bluff on Mackinac Island. Aerial photographer Robert Cameron died Tuesday, November 10, 2009, at his home in Pacific Heights, California, at the age of 98.

The father of Mackinac Island West Bluff cottager Jane Manoogian, Mr. Cameron featured Mackinac Island in one of his many photography books of cities of the world as seen from above.

"He led a wonderful life," said his son-in-law, Richard Manoogian. "Mackinac was always a special place to him."

From Mr. Cameron's first trip to the Island, he loved it, Mr. Manoogian said, and he returned every year that his health allowed.

"He was overwhelmed the first time, seeing it like most when they see the Island for the first time," added his daughter, Jane. He saw the photogenic qualities of the Island right away, she said.

Best known for his "Above" series of books, including "Above Mackinac," Mr. Cameron published aerial views few people see. He credited his camera for the striking photographs.

"The camera always sees more than I do," he told the Mackinac Island Town Crier in June 2006.

Up until only three months ago, Mr. Cameron continued his trademark technique of hanging out of a helicopter to capture his breathtaking images from the sky. With his ongoing love of San Francisco, his most recent project was shooting pictures of the city's famous hairpin turns of Lombard Street.

He was "almost blind in both eyes and could barely walk," said Mr. Manoogian, but was so familiar with San Francisco, he still felt comfortable to take the photos.

Mr. Cameron preferred evening light with its long shadows that added dimension to his photographs.

Most of his photographs were taken from a helicopter, but for the shots he took above Mackinac Island and the Straits of Mackinac in 1994, Mr. Cameron used a small airplane.

"He couldn't get a helicopter in the area," recalled Mr. Manoogian, "but got Barry BeDour to take him up in his seaplane, so he took the Mackinac photographs while hanging out of the seaplane."

Phil Porter, director of Mackinac State Historic Parks, wrote the text for Mr. Cameron's "Above Mackinac" book.

"He was a delightful guy," Mr. Porter said. "He was very inspirational in that he lived life to its fullest and never stopped looking for and taking on new and exciting challenges. Plus, he was just a delightful person to be with and a real gentleman. He was a great guy."

In 2006, and then again for the last two summers, Mr. Cameron's work has been shown at Grand Hotel in muralsized prints.

Mimi Cunningham, vice president at Grand Hotel, remembers Mr. Cameron's enthusiasm for life.

"When I think of him, I think of an adventurer, a swashbuckler," she said. "He enjoyed himself and he enjoyed life. He was so dashing."

Through some of the 16 books in his sky view series, Mr. Cameron has chronicled areas including San Francisco, London, Paris, Chicago, and New York.

His passion for life and his work continued even until his death with an exhibition now underway at the Metreon in downtown San Francisco entitled, "Environmental Journey: Robert Cameron's Aerial Photography of our Pacific Rim."

Mr. Cameron was born April 21, 1911, in Des Moines, Iowa, to William and Nora (nee Neuman) Cameron.

He was a news photographer for the Des Moines Register, but fell in love with aerial photography during World War II, when he was a contract photographer for the U.S. Army taking aerial photographs at night.

Looking into the future in 2006, Mr. Cameron told the Mackinac Island Town Crier he hoped in 100 years his work would serve as a representation of the way things were. That same year, two of Mr. Cameron's "Above San Francisco" books were placed inside a time capsule under San Francisco City Hall to be opened in the year 3000.

He married Janet Elliott, his high school sweetheart, who preceded him in death in 2003. The couple had four children. Two sons and their families, who live in California, are Todd and Wendy of Temecula and Tony and Lydia of Sausalito. The couple's two daughters and their families are Jane and Richard Manoogian of Grosse Pointe and Mackinac Island and Tracy and Clint Davis of Santa Rosa. Mr. Cameron also is survived by eight grandchildren.

At Mr. Cameron's request, no public services were planned.

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