Photography between heaven and earth


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 2 2017)

A society without photography? Unthinkable, not least because of Instagram and other image sharing sites. Most of us love to capture a beautiful motive, or to admire the professionals’ take from a lay person’s perspective. That is all very well but, it can be a bit more spectacular once in a while. The young Russian photographer Vadim Makhorov’s pictures provide an extraordinary and entirely new view of the world and its landmarks. Yet how the fascinating photos find their way into his camera body is anything but easy. The 27-year-old is part of the tribe of so-called free climbers, who ascend to extreme heights without safety rope. No name could be more suitable than #ontheroofs for his truly breathtaking urban exploring project.

Vadim, you ascend to vertiginous heights for your spectacular photographs. Why do you do this?

I try to show people the city from another angle. The city looks very different from such heights. I'm inspired to impress other people through my photography. 

Your work portrays the most diverse cities across the world from above. How do the various cities differ? Is it only urban motifs that appeal to you?

Not only, I like shooting nature too, but most of all I'm fascinated by the human environment. I like industrial, urban motives because they can be very different. Some of them shine with impressive high buildings, some are quite ancient and in every city the people are different.

What is the greatest challenge when taking photos at such dangerous heights? 

The biggest problem is that someone can catch you while you are doing your thing.

What role does total concentration on the absolute essential play here? How do you reach the point of being completely at one with yourself?

Urban exploration is a game. One time you need to be more concentrated, and another time you have to be more relaxed. It depends on chance.

Did you do some up-front climbing training for your work or are you simply a die-hard ‘adrenalin junkie’? 

No, I am not an adrenalin junkie. First thing is photography. But yes, I am training, but not for climbing, just for myself. 

Does scaling buildings become easier over time?

The number of roofers grows every day. It means roofing becomes more difficult because there are more competitors and the space will be less and less. This is the difficulty.

According to which criteria do you choose your structures?

I do not have any preference. It can be a tall building with a beautiful view like Shanghai Tower, but also a building with a cultural background like the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

Please describe the thrill that your job gives you.

Sometimes my job is a sea of adrenaline or like a game where the prize is a cool photo.


Vadim Makhorov explores the world in a way that is unfathomable to most: he scales its tallest buildings, bridges, and industrial structures with no safety equipment, and there, up high, he takes some spectacular photographs. Vadim achieved international fame after his adventure in Shanghai in 2014, when at a height of 650 metres he had to wait for 18 very long hours before the wind finally scattered the clouds and opened up the view of the city. You can see more pictures on his Instagram account @ontheroofs and @makhorov.

Picture credit © Vadim Makhorov, Ontheroofs team

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