Almost exactly one year ago, photographer Tom Ryaboi gained notoriety for this photo of the Toronto skyline. Dubbed "i'll make ya famous", the photo shows two legs dangling off the side of a skyscraper shot with a wide-angle camera lens. Ryaboi recounts the process of taking that photo on the 500px blog, revealing that it was completely unstaged and just a spur of the moment snapshot. In fact, those aren't even his legs--they're those of his friend who also happened to be shooting photos of her feet. (Only her photos didn't get any of the widespread attention that Ryaboi's did.) After being posted on Flickr and the then-new photo sharing site 500px, the image instantly went viral, shining widespread interest on the trend of urban "rooftopping".
The practice involves climbing up to the top of the tallest buildings in the city, often evading security and trespassing to gain an unparalleled vantage view of the city below. Photographers taken with the trend don't always use safety gear, and the adrenaline rush from the risk is part of the attraction. As Ryaboi explained in interviews, Rooftopping is akin to the urban exploration movements in France; it's parkour for photographers. And it's easy to see the appeal--photos on Flickr from rooftoppers are quite stunning, with many vertigo-inducing shots that mimic Tom Ryaboi's famous photo.
But the intersection of thrill-seeking and photography extends to beyond just rooftops. A new trend is even more dangerous than rooftooping, and once again, it's being practiced by young photographers bold enough to put their lives at risk for the perfect photo. Russian photographer Marat Dupri is a "skywalker", meaning he and his friends climb to great heights to take photographs from ledges, the top of statues, and off the side of ladder hundreds of feet above the ground. The resulting photos are at once exhilarating and stomach churning, especially when there's no visible ropes or safety gear in sight--the kids are just hanging off the side of a tall structure. With skywalking, the idea isn't just to garb a majestic view of the landscape below, but to include yourself in the shot. That compounds the amount of danger involved, which is evident in the following video:
Nerve wracking, to say the least.
With Rooftopping and Skywalking, the adventurous photos can be amazing but the risks are very real--last June, a 26-year old photographer fell to his death while posing for photos above a parking garage in Dallas. Being a professional photographer doesn't give you the license to take unnecessary chances with your own life.