Image: Kirill Oreshkin
Image: Kirill Oreshkin
Essentially, it’s just a simple snap that someone has taken of themselves – probably with a smartphone and often then posted onto a social media platform – but the selfie has nevertheless taken the world by storm over the past few years. The most famous example of this phenomenon probably came during the 2014 Oscars, when comedian and host Ellen DeGeneres snapped such a self-portrait alongside several A-list actors; within minutes, the photo was a viral sensation.
Perhaps hoping to emulate that selfie’s incredible reach, many others have gone to great lengths to capture the most unique and creative pictures of themselves. However, few selfies are as daringly composed – or indeed vertigo-inducing – as these 20 incredible shots taken by photographers perched perilously on towering buildings.
Photographer Kirill Oreshkin is otherwise known as the “Russian Spider-Man” because of his stomach-churning extreme selfies and other similarly vertiginous shots of himself. This first one, for instance, was taken without the use of safety gear at the absolute tip of Moscow’s Red Gate Building, which is 436 feet tall. Oreshkin’s friend, it should be noted, is not quite so elevated.
The Russian extreme explorer – seen here with only one hand gripping the top of another Moscow skyscraper – utilizes a structure’s framework or similar supports to take him to places that the staircase just won’t allow. Oreshkin’s spectacular pastime took off in 2008 when he started to clamber up nearby houses.
Of his lack of safety equipment, Oreshkin has explained, “Using safety measures changes something – no one is going to recognize that you really risked your life.” Oreshkin himself does acknowledge that his is a somewhat hazardous preoccupation – but that didn’t stop him from taking this picture at the very top of the 525-foot-tall Kudrinskaya Square Building in Moscow.
Oreshkin has also stated of his rather unusual pastime, “I like photographing the city and the people I get to spend time with.” And he’s managed both here, having used a selfie stick to capture himself and a friend clinging to the spire of Triumph Palace. Rising to a vertigo-inducing 866 feet, the building in Moscow is among the loftiest in Europe.
Oreshkin shows off his sparkling white kicks in this shot, which was taken as he teetered on top of the main building of Moscow State University. It’s impressive – not to mention a little absurd – that Oreshkin is able to keep his balance long enough to snap a picture while at the uppermost point of a structure a little under 800 feet in the air.
Oreshkin has admitted that he doesn’t train specifically for his adventures and that his motivation for such seemingly daredevil stunts is simple: “I just really like doing it,” he has said. “I like to look and study the city from different viewpoints.” It’s safe to say that this GoPro selfie, shot from 465 feet above Moscow, definitely qualifies as a different viewpoint.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away from Moscow, Daniel Lau has made headlines with his adventures to the uppermost points of skyscrapers in China – as glimpsed in this selfie snapped atop Shanghai’s Tomorrow Square. At its apex the building is approximately 934 feet above the ground, but Lau apparently had no fear in scaling it, nor in using a selfie stick-mounted Canon camera in order to capture the moment.
After seeing the exciting escapades of Russian rooftoppers, Lau knew it was time to change his lifestyle and, as he was quoted as saying in The Telegraph, “do something special, something memorable.” His wish, moreover, is to show people their surroundings “from a new perspective.”
Lau has here captured the perfect sunny selfie while wearing a simple T-shirt, hat and cool Dienastie shades – although the rooftopper also just happens to be 1,148 feet up in the air on The Center in Hong Kong.
Even the high winds experienced during such stunts aren’t too much of a concern for Lau, though; around the time of climbing The Center, The Telegraph quoted him as saying, “I weigh over ten stone (140 pounds), I am not going to be blown away.”
Like Oreshkin, Lau is not alone while on many of his vertiginous ventures. In this photo, self-proclaimed urban explorer Airin has taken control of the camera, while Lau and Andrew Tso gaze up toward the device. And if this shot weren’t impressive enough by itself, it should be noted that The Center is among the top five tallest skyscrapers in Hong Kong.
Lau is part of a daring team called Exthetics that blends photography with extreme exploration – as witnessed in these images. The group’s aim, according to its website, is to show the world “something you’ve never seen before.”
Explaining what excites him most about his selfie-taking exploits, Lau tells us, “The silence up high, looking down the roads, people and cars moving slow. It’s like a getaway from the city life. I’m not searching for thrill, and the excitement comes from exploration, but not conquering heights.”
This audacious selfie from Lau in less than ideal weather conditions is taken from the video he created while climbing Shenzhen’s Ping An Finance Centre. No safety equipment seems to be present in the image, despite the fact that the imposing skyscraper soars to a dizzying 2,165 feet tall.
Given that many of these selfies feature more than one person, collaboration and cooperation is clearly a key element in this new fad. Indeed, Lau met up with Russian fellow climbers for this epic snap high above a cityscape. “It’s both an extreme sport and an art,” the Hong Kong rooftopper has said of his hobby.
It’s not just China that Lau has documented in his crazy selfies, either. Here he is high atop a skyscraper in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. And the dazzling photo certainly demonstrates Lau’s desire to “explore places where people don’t usually go, like abandoned places, construction sites, and, of course, rooftops.”
Perhaps surprisingly, these adventures apparently aren’t scary in the slightest for Lau. According to The Telegraph, he has said, “I feel exactly the same walking at 1,000ft as I do on the ground. People always worry that I am going to fall while standing on a ledge, but think about it this way: would you fall if you were standing on a block on the ground?”
Lau is grateful that his passion is reaching so many pairs of eyes, but he has also told website Localiiz that he is wary of copycat explorers, saying, “I don’t appreciate people who only want to go to roofs to snap a shot and show it off to their friends. If you enjoy exploration, you wouldn’t ask people for locations, you would find your own way.”
Indeed, Lau insists that he would be up on these skyscrapers even if he had no camera. He says, “Photography is just a side product. The most important thing is to enjoy the moment, and look at the view from our own eyes, to capture it on our minds.”
Image: Tom Ryaboi
In this last stellar selfie, the man behind the horse mask atop a skyscraper in Toronto is rooftopping forerunner Tom Ryaboi. Of taking death-defying shots like this one, Ryaboi tells Scribol, “For me, the excitement comes from seeing the big picture.” But such escapades do come with risks aside from the obvious sheer drops below; Ryaboi, for example, once had a run-in with a fierce urban falcon protecting her high-up territory. That’s one occupational hazard we couldn’t have foreseen here.