Earlier this year, Russian photographers Vadim Makhorov and Vitaliy Raskalov climbed the Great Pyramid of Giza, risking up to three years imprisonment (if caught) for a chance at remarkable picture-taking. They pulled a similar stunt on the rooftops of Dubai; a high-end example of “skywalking”.
Got a sensitive stomach? Then click on a different Green Prophet story – because the following photos cause vertigo. Readers are warned: don’t try this at home, and maybe tie up your teenagers.
The Russians scaled the structures without authorization, snapping pictures from positions obscured from security guard view. The photos incited reactions of awe and indignation, prompted debate over protection of antiquities, and caused a hailstorm of racist commentary.
Skywalking blows past planking as the latest trend in touristic photography. It’s “buildering” gone wild, a flip on the exploits of Philippe Petit and French Spider-Man, Alain Robert. Skywalkers self-photo events, quickly uploading on social media, usually under the radar of mainstream press.
This team’s pictures are absolutely incredible. Remarkably, in the era of digital photography, they are not enhanced. We see the photographer’s view, with crisp awareness that he stood in crazy, life-threatening vantage points. It evokes instinctive biological reactions of fear and lightheadedness. The shots are literally breath-taking.
“We tried to capture the beauty of the scenery, so that others could also see this magnificent panorama. That’s why I would like to apologize for this ascension. We didn’t want to insult anyone. We were just following the dream.”
They were not the first to climb the pyramid, and he posted on his photoblog, “We strongly recommend that you do not repeat it.”
The images are environmentally important. See the far-reaching expansion of Cairo and Dubai, the intense light pollution and roadway sprawl. The occasional LEED-certified building is insignificant against these wider impacts of Mideast urbanization.
An odd sub-experience to life in the Middle East is frequent inundation by Russian travelers. You know when it’s happening, the telltales of cultural collision are visceral. Let’s paint this picture with the broadest of brushes: Russians are people with large presence. They’re allergic to queues, and loud, and they appear to be on the forefront of this innervating trend.
Reducing the people of the world’s largest nation to a one-line description is as asinine as, say, standing without fall-protection atop 100-story building, but it does seems young Russians really like to climb tall stuff and take pictures.
My go-to source for all things Russian is Nick Moran, social media editor for literary website The Millions and self-described Russky-phile. He tells me, “Skywalking is a big deal in Russia, mostly with rural teens. There’s so much abandoned Soviet-era infrastructure that it’s easy to sneak into these areas and climb up. A lot of these kids have nothing to really ‘live for’. Couple that with easy access to vodka and you’ve got some pretty wild daredevil behavior.”
Local authorities hate the trend, which is growing in popularity, because they’re afraid to climb after the culprits.
Will regional shutterbugs will hop aboard this trend? See Saudi youth cease drifting their cars to climb the Mecca Watchtower. Watch Emirati teens clamber up dueling Burjs. And Qatari kids…well they’ll probably take the elevator.
All Images by Vadim Makhorov and Vitaliy Raskalov from EnglishRussi