ALTITUDE WITH ATTITUDE
IVAN KRISTOFF PHOTOGRAPHY
â€œBuild your name, play your game and be the man of the hourâ€?
Ivan Kristoff in Retrospecitive 2003-2005
INTRODUCTION Photographer, creative designer and essayist– the many talents of adventurer Ivan Kristoff are explored in this abundantly illustrated volume, the first to examine the work of world’s famous rope access technician. From his professional work on the exterior walls of skyscrapers, through the tops of the world’s tallest structures, Ivan examines in words and in images the past three years of his remarkable artist’s oeuvre. Although he has been called by the media Canada’s Spiderman, for his unique skills and innovative techniques to scale down buildings during training and High Angle rescue operations, Ivan encompasses a wider range of the vertical environment by going into the field of tactical operations on ropes suspended from helicopters. His evolution as a photographer is marked by several distinct stages. Initially recognized for his outdoor photography of sport’s activities in caves and mountains, he further explored to take aerial shots while flying with a paraglider. As Kristoff’s exterior services on tall building and antenna masts expanded, his portfolio increased with visual records of his projects as a necessity to allow his clients to see through his eyes the work, during photo and video surveys on the exterior building envelope. Aerial shots from helicopters of his airborne tactical and rescue demonstrations became a signature, best observed in his ropework related special events. Since he felt that he reached the highest levels of training in extreme conditions, beyond the lines of reasonable risk and safe procedures, and mastered all possible climbing techniques, the photographer wanted to create a new meaning in his hobby. Ivan, who studied philosophy and history of fine arts in his first year at the University of Toronto, wanted to implement his knowledge in research for a new form of visual communications. He wanted to explore new concepts in photography and though the most advanced technology in photo lenses to shape the view of the surrounding elements in his own matrix. Through the use of wide angle lenses, the viewer can observe near 180º panoramic scenes. This is why the exhibition in which the artist represented his later work is called “Through the Eye of the Spider”. This collection of photos and essay represent the scope of work in the artistic and professional endeavor of the author in the period of year 202-2005. Widely represented in Bulgarian exhibitions, he has recently exhibited a multi-media presentation of how Ivan organizes his special events. In the City of Varna, he demonstrated to the public Rapid Access Deployment of emergency rescue vehicles in hard to reach places by lifting up his Off-road motorcycle to the roof of the Palace of Culture and Sport. In his Spiderman-style, he scaled down with it. It gave an emotional and interesting opportunity for the crowd to take some pictures of this spectacular event and share the same vision of capturing unique images.
In 2003, Ivan became part of the international group of Special Nikon Photographers. As a member of the Nikon Professional Services (NPS), Ivan Kristoff experimented with the Nikon New Generation Digital Imaging System by using a Camera Control component software, in order to capture almost every aspect of the camera operation remotely from a laptop. While working in the open, he took remotely numerous pictures of himself in action and operated his camera via wireless Modulite Remote Control Set or using the controls in the Camera Control window. In his search for an unconventional philosophical point of view of the elements in his pictures, taken from high elevation, Ivan studied the foundations of Eastern philosophy and martial arts. His spiritual quest is the prime motivation for him to blend photography and philosophy and transform his talent into a new form of expressing yourself. As Prof. Pascal Michelucci of the University of Toronto wrote that Ivan’s amazing photographic work has found a great historic venue where it will be showcased in the national capital of his own native country. In his letter address for the opening of Ivan’s exhibition in the Bulgarian National Assembly Building in Sofia, he wrote: “You can feel proud of such an achievement. The photo exhibit which you were contemplating when you took my Communication, Culture and Information technology course has now became a reality. Your efforts are being acknowledged and rewarded in a memorable manner… I am sure that many more successes will follow”. The Honorable Jean Augustine, M. P. of the Canadian House of Commons wrote in her address to the organizers of the same exhibition; “Mr. Ivan Kristoff has accumulated a unique portfolio of aerial and remote access photography that deserves to be recognized. His work extends to his knowledge and expertise in the area of emergency response. Through the Highrise Emergency Aerial Response Team (H.E.A.R.T.), Mr. Kristoff has exhibited leadership in technological innovation and in his commitment to public safety. This exhibition portfolio contains over 100 images, some of which are shown here for the first time. There is also an extensive chronology, bibliogphy and exhibition list.
New Frontiers in Photography by Prof. Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov Some photographs in the exhibition “Through the Eye of the Spider” represent the first performed emergency repair on an inaccessible area on one of the tallest buildings in the world. The Toronto-based photographer Ivan Kristoff completed the work during extreme weather conditions with wind factor of above 60 km per hour in the winter of 2002. By happy coincidence, Mr. Kristoff managed to capture in these series of photographs two of his life’s ambitions. First, he was commissioned as one of the best known urban rope access professionals to work on the highest buildings in the world. While commencing the work, Mr. Kristoff came up with the idea of employing his skills as a photographer to document this highly dangerous event. The result is a series of amazing photographs captured by Mr. Kristoff during moments of peak performance while suspended from a ropes. The spontaneity of the photographs was achieved by means of remote photography. The majority of the striking images include Mr. Kristoff with the Toronto cityscape in the background while workong on buildings. The aerial views of the city taken at different moments charter the photographer’s attempts to employ the safest and yet most efficient operations in completing his project. Some of the images reveal the hazardous weather change, cold temperatures and harsh conditions that were endured. The photographs allow the viewer to study the exciting sequences of the physical task and at the same time to admire strong compositional designs of each image. All the photographs express the dramatic event as it unfolded. Each image demonstrates the author’s talent to time a specific shot in order to reveal the working figure in contrast to the breathtaking panoramic view of the urban landscape.
Photographer’s Biography Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, Ivan Kristoff has studied Information Technology and Communications at the University of Toronto. His interests in outdoor sports and activity have aimed at blending new heights in photography with new dimensions in his vertical operations.His favorite photographs are taken by hanging high in the air by ropes from helicopters or antenna masts. Ivan’s interest in photography started after conquering solo the highest peak in Europe, Mt. Elbrus (5650 m.) in the winter of 1989 during a national climbing expedition in the Caucasus. During a trip to Moscow, following the climb, he sold most of his climbing equipment and clothing in order to purchase a second-hand camera with accessories. In 1990, with two different tickets for the same plane to Cuba via Moskow, Kristoff escaped form the communist regime. A few months later, he found his way in Toronto, Canada, where he dreamed to work on the highest buildings. Ivan’s passion for helicopters, paragliders and motorcycles illustrates his never abiding focus on pursuing the element of danger. “I live to be challenged. I love pushing the extreme and living on the edge” he laughs, looking at his scars from unforgettable experiences. Because most of these dare-devil pictures were taken in extreme situations (weather or life-threatening conditions) or form prohibited places (local By-Laws, each photograph has unique history. Most of them have survived only in his memory due to frozen film, or let’s say, his lens just fell down in the abyss. Internationally known for his bold projects and cutting-edge use of technology in inaccessible places, Ivan continues to be an experimenter and pioneer. His innovative photographs reveal his interest in documenting innovative aerial and technical operations. The series of photographs in this exhibition confirm Ivan’s statement “When I am testing unprecedented concepts of aerial techniques such as rope rescue and remote access, at the same time I capture by means of photography the dynamics of my airborne acrobatics.” Among his accomplished projects, Ivan has rappelled and climbed from Eurocopter, Mi-17 Bulgarian Tactical Aviation, Police and private twin-engine helicopters. Ivan’s priority project is to test how civilian and government helicopters can be employed in innovative aerial operations for vertical rescue during emergency crisis.
Motus Vivendi Ivan is a visionary artist. His photos illustrate his motus vivendi. They exhibit vividly how Ivan’s love of remote access and aerial photography have resulted in breathtaking pictures involving his abiliti to go where no man has stepped before. His friends have concluded that the secret of his success is never accepting conventional thinking and traditional routes in achieving his goals. Nevertheless his followers attest that Ivan always tests his theories and lives by his belief “Never stop seeking challenges.” His projects have appeared in Toronto Computes, Computer Player, Quebec Micro, The Athlete, Bulgarian Army, National Post, The Toronto Sun, The Globe and Mail, Town Crier, Mississauga News, Mississauga Business Times, etc. Leading Fortune 500 companies including IBM, Sony Ericsson and Canon have showcased Ivan’s project in their marketing advertisement.His innovative photographs reveal his interest in documenting innovative aerial and technical operations. North America’s established rope access and aerial emergency response expert, Kristoff has achieved new heights in safety and shaped new industry trends in the highrise industry. His photos are taken during some of the most dangerous and complicated aerial and rope access projects in Canada. During this work at height, he developed technically innovative concepts and advanced skills in the use of high-tech equipment and communications. An ongoing dedication to safety has enabled him to be a leader in the use of vertical technology. He is the first person to complete rope access work at the inaccessible areas of the tallest building in the world. This portfolio encloses the spiritual aspect of a photographer, determined to reveal his dreams and memories, which make the viewer share his experience. The determination to express in pictures what is impossible to describe with words. His wireless remote photography achievements have resulted not only in a quest into the vertical world but also into the nature of the human spirit. “My photos speak of my life, what I do for a living and what I live for.”
Reflections by Ivan Kristoff
To me, remote photo shooting of the progression of my rope access work related assignments is the artistic expression of “Knowing yourself and what drives” notion. In Shintoism, the purification of one’s soul is to know thyself, to seek honor by first looking inside the soul and confront the intimate fears that we hide from ourselves, and that plague our psyche in everyday life. The word Shinto in translation can have the same metaphorical meaning as in English, “way of life”. Most of my photos reflect my way of life in the vertical environment. Through visual arts I search for new horizons of my visual perception of my belonging in the world of extreme endeavors. When you know yourself you know where you belong. This sense of belonging has depicted in these photos. Taking wireless remote camera control photos of my work performance at extreme heights was inspired by the Shinto philosophy in which, you have to look at yourself as in a reflection of a mirror. In Shinto, the mirror is a powerful symbol for self-reflection. In literature, in film, in the arts in general, mirrors often signal poignant moments of deep reflection. In my photography I see the visual aspect of the achievements of my goals and how far I have gone - beyond my wildest dreams to work on the highest buildings in the world and step where no man has stepped before. This is the advantage of pioneering new trends in remote access and space services. The history’s greatest martial artist Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido, said that “To know yourself is to know the universe”.” A better reading of Ueshiba’s meaning might be along the lines “to master yourself (your thoughts and movement and desire) and having done so, bringing yourself into accord with natural law, you will find yourself always in accord with natural law”. Taking photographs from high elevation inspired me by his poem: The divine beauty Of heaven and earth! All creation, Members of One family.
My inspiration for documenting in pictures my work is to describe a scene, which I can not explain with words. I strongly believe that visual communications must reflect on the artist’s personal philosophy and his beliefs. I have been deeply influenced by the Eastern philosophy: “In order to focus, sometimes you have to step aside”. The Japanese warrior Miyamoto Musashi, looks at the battles from a bird’s eye view. “Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.” I can’t express with words my emotions being in hard to reach places at my “mobile” office a few hundred meters above the ground. I can only hope that the observer can see through my eyes the world from a unique perspective. How can you imagine yourself in my position, when you are looking at the airplanes and helicopters are flying beneath your feet and you are still standing and having your coffee out in the open? Unfortunately, no body can feel how excited I was, when I was chosen to be the first man to receive a contract for working on the tallest buildings in restricted areas which give spectacular views of some of the greatest mega cities.
“If you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much space”
WITH ATTITUDE “There is no such thing as risk free photography while hanging on a rope from a helicopter or the exterior of tall buildings during aerial and vertical ropework operations. But capturing the view from high elevation is worth that risk. Through my photographs, I want to give a chance to the viewer to look at my point-of view from an elevation, which is higher from the world’s highest observation desks. Everyone sees things from a different angle, and looking at the surrounding environment from a birds-eye-view is the best way form me to reach out new heights and new frontiers in photography. From the moment I realized my life-long to take a picture from the top of tallest standing structure and look at the landmarks in vertical engineering from a unique angle, I elevated my own perspective in photography and philosophy. My attitude towards work at extreme height, affects the results in my photographs and performance. Therefore, as in Buddhism, I focus on the five elements which make up the cosmos and conceusness levels in the spiritual development: ground, water, fire, wind and void.”
My favorite buildings
Photography in its new dimension Iâ€™ve long dreamed of shooting Toronto City from a high elevation. As a professional, who makes a living by working on the exterior building envelope, I always strive to convey the view of a building from its best angle of shooting point and relate it somehow with some kind of action. In most cases, I am the main player in this game. That is why I am always easy to be found, in the center of the action.
Toronto View from the worldâ€™s highest observation desk
Aiming high My emotional feeling, the night before I had to leave the first footprints on the unclimbed areas of the Tallest Freestanding Structure on land, is beyond explanation. The few days when I was stepping into the unknown, I felt the sensation of reaching new heights in photography. Everyone who dares to climb the highest peak needs his Tensing Norgay to assist him. Especially during the first ascend of the worldâ€™s tallest urban summit. Especially in the winter, when he has face brutal winds, extreme weather conditions, deal with the freezing cold and work in harsh environment. Not for me. I wanted to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event by myself. In the sphere of uncertainty I wanted to manage the entire risk and critical situations. I always test my innovative suspended access procedures in dangerous environment by myself. Through the trial-error experience I improve them, where necessary. After I developed the best work plan, I invited an overqualified rope access technician to assist me on the
Ivan is easy to be found - he is always in the center of the action. He engages in dangerous situations, only because he knows how to get out of them. He takes pictures in the high-risk environment on a daily basis in order to document technical reports for his completed work.
â€œRisk Management is my brand name. I live to be challenged. I love pushing the extreme and living on the edgeâ€?
Iâ€™ve long dreamed of shooting Toronto City from a high elevation. As a professional, who makes a living by working on the exterior building envelope, I always strive to convey the view of a building from its best angle of shooting point and relate it somehow with some kind of action. In most cases, I am the main player in this game. That is why I am always easy to be found, in the center of the action.
My vision on taking pictures is to create surrounds me
new frontiers in the vertical environment that and explore new dimensions in photography.
“The higher you are, the longer you’ll live when you fall down”
“The higher you are, the longer you’ll live when you fall down”
An interesting development occurred during his work on the project. Mr. Kristoff was informed by his clients that due to a shortened time frame the completion of work needed to be abandoned. He was advised that he would be fully recompensed for his work even if the project had to be terminated. Mr. Kristoff’s response was automatic; “I’d rather jump off from the building than abandon any unfinished project that I have committed my self to complete.” He managed to finish the work often under severe turbulent wind conditions that often smashed his body against the building’s walls. Often bruised and battered by the elements and the work itself, he nevertheless managed to achieve his goal. This mission-oriented personality did not allow for a mission to be aborted.
“In my artistic and professional work, I always leave the “fingerprint” of my identity. I leave an invisible trace of the line, which distinguishes the visual records of my work performance from the conventional means of documenting work monitoring.”
EXPERT WORK AT EXTREME HEIGHTS Through his company Eiger Rope Access Work Inc., Ivan pioneered the most comprehensive aerial and highrise ropework services in Canada. Our reputation is built over the years by completing some of the most challenging rope access projects in high-rise environment. One of them is the first exterior repair at 1725' during winter extreme conditions and winds above 60km/h.
Working nearby the most powerful microwave radio and TV transmitters requires on the planet takes a lot of concentration and caution. But when you do it alone in strong winds, low temperature and long hours with little time to recover, you can not afford even the smallest mistake. Every mistake would be your last one. I had to wear this special RF suit, which reduces 20 times the absorption of Radio Frequency exposure. I was told that itâ€™s very easy to find when you are under microwave exposure: first you testicles start boiling, then your eye balls and your brain. Now, that grabbed my attention. I was trying to wear it all the times, but when it was very cold, it stopped the efficiency of the high-tech breathing clothing, which I was wearing underneath.
Wo r k i n g nearby the most powerful microwave radio and TV transmitters requires on the planet takes a lot of concentration and caution. But when you do it alone in strong winds, low temperature and long hours with little time to recover, you can not afford even the smallest mistake. Every mistake would be your last one. I had to wear this special RF suit, which reduces 20 times the absorption of Radio Frequency exposure. I was told that itâ€™s very easy to find when you are under microwave exposure: first you testicles start boiling, then your eye balls and your brain. Now, that grabbed my attention. I was trying to wear it all the times, but when it was very cold, it stopped the efficiency of the high-tech breathing clothing, which I was wearing underneath.
IVAN KRISTOFF BRINGS PHOTOGRAPHY TO EXTREME HEIGHTS As you leaf through this portfolio, you will discover what an extraordinary path has been traveled since Ivan Kristoff explored new dimensions in the world of photography . Page after page, you will come to realize with what passion Ivan has created in the world of remote photography at extreme heights. For this is about the passion and daring to achieve new heights in photography. This portfolio describes how a young immigrant in Canada, who did not speak a word of English, used media semiotics in order to achieve his personal and professional goals. This is a research of a unique approach of combining the many communication mediums, technology and marketing strategies to create a new trend in the vertical world of rescue. By looking at the history of this endeavour, I will semiotically analyse and identify the different signs and meanings used to communicate in this process by the means of media and public events. His photographs illustrate his motus vivendi. The photographs exhibit vividly how Ivanâ€™s love of mountain climbing, flying have resulted in breathtaking aerial photographs involving such activities.
I had to wear this special RF suite with stainless-steel fibers, which reduces the micro-wave exposure of the radio and TV transmitters above me. It stops the efficiency of high-tech breathing clothing wear and I had to open the zipper once in a while in order to remove the frost from the frozen condensation under the suite. How do you know that you are under dangerous RF exposure? First your testicles start boiling, then your eye balls, brainâ€Ś I felt safe under the strict safety precautions, taken by building maintenance team, but I was still concerned about my precious parts. My first day on the exterior of an antenna mast was unforgettable. I felt sea-sickness at the elevation of a few hundred meters off the ground. As a scuba diver, I could relate the motion sickness only in the water. At this height, I could barely distinguish the figures of people, down there. I asked, over the secured radio frequency, the consulting engineer of the project for the scientific explanation on this phenomenon. I was advised to lift one of my legs. I did it and I leaned over. At this altitude and strong winds, I was moving with the building structure. The second day, while I was working in the open and focused on my job, I had the strange feeling every time when I looked over the nearby airport. Later I found the logical explanation- all the helicopters and small airplanes were flying under me
1995 “Spiderman… on a wall near you Ivan Kristoff is as comfortable dangling from a towering edifice as he is sitting in his loving room. This Young Bulgarian immigrant daredevil has big plans hanging around Toronto. Listening to Ivan Kristoff can take you to the same dizzy heights as his job… The unique perspective he gains of Toronto by dangling off highrise buildings, is nothing compared to his professional climb to the top…He boasts he can safely hang off any building and his ambition is to flop over the CN Tower.” – Steve Payne, Toronto Sun
1996 “Mission Possible Does our cover shot bring back memories from one of this summer’s blockbuster, Mission: Impossible? ‘No way. This is not just Tom Cruise. This guy is more radical than that!’ says Ivan Kristoff while suspended form ropes during the shooting of this month’s ‘Mission: Possible’ cover.” – Mara Gulens, editor Toronto Computes and Quebec Micro (Cover story) Spiderman scales walls for business sake “Dubbed “Spiderman” by local media, Kristoff has become an easy identifiable figure scaling up and down Toronto’s skyscrapers in his high-tech garb.” Mike Beggs, editor Mississauga Business News
1997 “Life in the extreme Kristoff was nabbed and warned by Collingwood police for flying and taking pictures over the Blue Mountains resort and reprimanded when caught rappelling down a Don Valley railway bridge to take pictures.” – Prof. Robert Welsh, Cover story, The Athlete
1998 Climber takes safety to new heights He loves a good challenge. He’s a thrill seeker
1999 “Success is up in the air A lot of careers involve climbing the corporate ladder. But Ivan Kristoff’s involves climbing the corporate tower. He climbs up the side of high-rises to do renovations, installations, aerial photography and emergency rescues.” – Ryan James, Toronto Sun
Ice, wind, cold... The icy blast were sometimes so violent that I was blown away from the side of the building. Overcomming the pain from hiting the wall a few times and summoning more strenth to continue my work, there was no question of giving up my assigment. Not even taking a break. Only a few pills to reduce the pain. The job had to be completed regarding of the obstacles. You lick your wounds, you wipe out the blood from your face and keep going.
These are the moments, when I feel intimately linked in a personal and brutal strugle with nature. You can survive and trive on the challenges ahead only if you remain your courage and determination intact. You think of nothing but achieving your goal. And when you are too busy to think, your instincts and character contols the situation. Sometimes safety is out of the window, achieving the expactations of my clients is always my priority.
Ivan has a point-of-view that most others donâ€™t.â€? Canon Broshure
The Scotia Bank and Yonge Street North East at night View from the 43th floor at the Suites of 1 King West building.
Before I take a picture, I look for the
unique perspective on my object. Capturing images of my projects, while working
the air, gives me the satisfaction to observe my work performance and appreciate more my choice of profession. It gives a
new meaning to
to appreciate more the risk involved with the task. my projects and allows me
I strongly believe that visual communications must reflect on the artist’s personal philosophy and his believes. I have been deeply influenced by the eastern philosophy. “In order to focus, sometimes you have to step aside.’ The Japanese warrior Miyamoto Musashi, looks at the battles from a bird’s eye view. “Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.”
Yonge Street North East Side
Yonge Street East Side
King Street West Side
King Street West Side
t North East Side
ROMPHEYA ART GALLERY
The exhibition featured some photos from the highest buildings in the world. The largest number of photos are from Toronto, where Ivan has been living for the last 15 years. The artist presents unique images that have captured the element of danger in a series of innovative projects around the world. This exhibition demonstrated the technical accomplishments of members of the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, who have dedicated their life to public safety, emergency response and rescue.
PALACE HALL GALLERY
At the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna, Bulgaria, Ivan Kristoff presented images of his work at extreme heights. Some of them show the first rope access work at the inaccessible areas of the tallest building in the world. Ivan brought together this collection of aerial and remote access photography. This exhibition showcased some of his achievements with the Bulgarian Air Force Tactical Aviation Corps and the Faculty of Fire Protection Engineering & Emergency Control.
Achieve New Heights in Optimal Performance At the heart of Ivan Kristoff, lies an extraordinary philosophy called Achieve New Heights - a unique approach to extrem projects, which he organizes and promotes.
President Petar Purvanov congratulates Ivan on his achievment with the Tactical Aviation Unit
Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman with Ivan before an aerial rope resuce demonstration
With each project, Ivan Kristoff puts his extreme projects in which he has committed resources to fully supporting the endeavors of his team members from a variety of extreme disciplines in training â€“ thus creating a Highrise Emergency Aerial Response Team (H.E.A.R.T), a group of rope access technicians and professional engineers, who continue to re-define the limits of human potential. H.E.A.R.T. members engage in extraordinary events throughout the year, in the most extreme circumstances, around the world. Possessing the courage and the will to cross new frontiers, these exceptional men measure their physical progression with Polar Precision Performance Software. With each project, Ivan puts his physical and mental determination against the elements of danger to achieve a predetermined goal. On May 2002, he set the world record in rappelling and ascending on a rope from a helicopter, rewriting the procedures for rope access on MI-17 turbo twin-engine aircraft. As Ivan prepares for a 3000 feet descend and ascend on a rope, suspended by a flying helicopter or balloon, Eiger Rope Access Work Inc. has the honor of participating in this outstanding episode in the history of human endeavor. These and other extreme endeavors carried out by Ivan Kristoff have created new trends in the vertical environment. Most importantly, Ivan personifies the concept of Achieving New Heights, proving to all that the impossible is attainable.
With Sir Richard Branson
IVAN KRISTOFF PHOTOGRAPHY