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unobstructed view is magical and worth all the associated risks.’ In some parts of the world it seems rooftoppers are forgiven their trespassing. But in February, Tom and two friends were arrested for allegedly breaking in to the observation deck of a Toronto building. And in the UK, for instance, rooftoppers can’t even post their pics online without getting into trouble. Last October, the On The Roof troupe climbed the uncompleted 632 metres of the Shanghai Tower, hijacked the signal to an enormous LED screen on another building and showed a video of their stunt with the message ‘What’s Up Hong Kong’ and their logo. That seems like nothing more than a gag, but rooftopping has also been used to make more serious statements. A daring Russian known as Mustang Wanted has used it for political protest, painting the Soviet star on a Moscow building in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. Rooftopping is controversial, but the disapproval doesn’t seem to be about people risking life and limb for kicks. It is more about the fact that these outlaw Instagrammers, as they’ve also been called, break rules. Some might say we live vicariously through their antics. Rooftopping also provides us with a thrilling view of the cities we live in and always see from the same perspectives. The new wave of rooftoppers might be going too far, though. Canadian photographer Neil Ta thinks so and gave it up last year. ‘Something changed fundamentally when it became less about just going up and having a good time with friends and more about who can take the photo of the other person in the most precarious situation,’ he wrote on his blog. ‘Danger sells. There was a market for our images and whoever had the most “vertigo-inducing” photo reigned supreme.’ Rooftopping can be art, protest or adventure. But it is nearly always risky – and the risks should be weighed before you try it. For the moment, though, a spectacular shot of your feet (or a friend’s) dangling over an edge, high above the world can make you famous.★



t takes all kinds to view the world and the Instagram generation is constantly finding new ways of doing it. Urban exploration is one of them – a subculture of people who go off, camera in hand, into the dark corners of cities, getting into places that are off limits to capture unique perspectives of their environment. Urban exploration has been around for decades and keeps dropping new sub-subcultures that push even harder and go even further. A relatively recent one is rooftopping. The term was coined by Jeff Chapman in his 2005 book Access All Areas: A User’s Guide to the Art of Urban Exploration. While urban explorers zoom in on details, rooftoppers go the other way. They climb buildings to shoot stomachchurning photographs and videos of the landscape down below. Many of the climbs involve bending or breaking rules and part of the thrill is dodging guards or getting past security. Then there is the rush of getting to the top without gear or protection, stepping out and getting a view that was previously for authorised personnel only. Russian photographer Vitaliy Raskalov and friends call themselves On The Roof and have climbed buildings in more than 50 countries. Once they get to the top, they strike poses over edges or balance on towers and cranes, shooting videos that have become hugely popular online. Fearless adrenalin addicts like them are everywhere – Vitaliy says he has met some from Canada, the Ukraine, France, Australia, Cape Town, Hong Kong and London. The trending ones get sponsorships from companies such as Nike, Nissan, Canon, Reebok, Adidas and Mercedes. Vitaliy gets contracts from big brands. Humza Deas, a New York teen specialising in climbing bridges, sells his prints for $250 each. Canadian Tom Ryaboi shot to viral fame in 2011 with a pic he called ‘I’ll Make Ya Famous’, which shows the feet of his friend Jennifer Tse dangling over the edge of a Toronto skyscraper. Within 24 hours his image had attracted 25 000 views on Flickr and the next morning he had interview requests from around the world. ‘As much as I love taking, sharing and looking at photos taken from rooftops, it is not the only thing up there,’ he wrote on his blog. ‘There is a sense of freedom that cannot be described. Feeling the city from an

OBRIGADO 39 Winter 2015  

My Coffee, My Life!

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