Part of a series on Photo Fads. [View Related Entries]

Updated Dec 30, 2019 at 02:59AM EST by Y F.

Added Apr 27, 2012 at 04:20PM EDT by Fridge.

PROTIP: Press 'i' to view the image gallery, 'v' to view the video gallery, or 'r' to view a random entry.

skywalker looking down on a city of lights


Skywalking is an extreme sport that involves standing or walking atop very tall structures at dangerous heights, such as the rooftop of a skyscraper building or a bridge. The photo fad surrounding the practice began in 2011 after videos and photos of Russian teenagers skywalking surfaced online, eventually spreading to the English-speaking web.


Russian teenager Marat Dupri began scaling buildings and other high-rise structures in Moscow to take landscape photographs as early as 2011. In September of that year, several of his photographs were featured on news sites including The Daily Mail[3], New York Daily News[4], Metro UK[5], and the Telegraph.[6] Portuguese news site Busk[8] shared several other photos of Russian teenagers mimicking Dupri's style that month.

On November 23rd, 2011, Dupri was interviewed by Russia Beyond the Headlines[6], in which he stated that the views he captures greatly outweigh the risks he takes to photograph them. A video of Dupri and his friends scaling a freestanding structure for photographs was first uploaded to YouTube on January 7th, 2012, by DeAeMe. A photo taken while this video was being filmed won an award in the 2012 Best of Russia photography competition[10] organized by the Telegraph UK.


Russian photographer Vadim Mahorov[9] began collecting the photos of Duprim and other photographers on LiveJournal. On April 23rd, 2012, lifestyle site Mother Nature Network[11] covered Dupri’s photography project in an article titled "Russian teens risk their lives for dizzying, sky-high photos." In the following week, the images were featured on German news site Spiegel[12], photography site PetaPixel[13], culture blog Tested[14], the International Business Times[2], the Daily What[1] and ABC News.[15] Skywalking photos can be found on Twitter[16] and Tumblr.[17]

There has been some opposition to the trend by Russian authorities. On May 3rd, 2012, the Moscow Times[33] reported a trio of Skywalkers led by 19-year-old Vitaly Raskalov were arrested after scaling a pair of bridges in Vladivostok. Police were tipped off by pictures and video on Raskalov's Vkontakte page, in addition to tweets and a claim from Raskalov that he and his friends would climb the Russky Island Bridge the following day. The story was picked up by Gawker[34] and the Daily What[35] on May 18th, 2012.

Notable Examples ©Caters News Agency
©Caters News Agency ©Caters News Agency


Sometime in the mid-2000s, Urban Exploration[23] groups began "rooftopping," which also involved climbing to tall, often off-limits roofs for photographs of the view. Though photos of this type were taken as early as the 1920s[28], the earliest known online mention of the practice can be attributed to a thread posted on the Scottish message board The Hidden Glasgow[21] in March 2004. "Rooftopping" was defined on Urban Dictionary in 2009 and an instruction guide for how to get into off-limits areas was shared on Urban Exploration Resource[22] in 2011. Photographs from these excursions were often shared on Flickr in a tag pool[24] as well as a group pool.[25]

On April 24th 2011, photographer Tom Ryaboi[18] took a photograph entitled “i’ll make ya famous[19]” while sitting on top of a high rise in Toronto, Canada. In the following month, this photo was used as a lead in for several news stories about rooftopping that were published on city culture blog My Modern Met[26], photography site PetaPixel[27], the Daily Mail[31] and Laughing Squid.[29] In February 2012, the photo was posted to Reddit[30] and received 3978 up votes and 1180 points overall. The photograph led to several career and licensing opportunities for Ryaboi, who published a retrospective[32] on his famous photograph a year after it was taken.

Search Interest

Skywalking also refers to an exploitable bug[7] in the game Team Fortress 2, however search for skywalking correlates with search for Marat Dupri's name in spring 2012.

External References

[1] The Daily What – Disturbing Trend of the Day

[2] International Business Times – Skywalking Russia’s Planking

[3] Daily Mail – On top of the world: Daring photographer scales sky-high buildings to take stomach-churning shots of the Earth below

[4] New York Daily News – Russian teen sneaks past police to take photos atop Moscow's highest structures (PHOTOS)

[5] Metro UK – Student Marat Dupri and his friends risk their lives to become skywalkers

[6] Telegraph – Pictures of the day: 14 September 2011

[6] Russia Beyond the Headlines – A student takes photos in the sky

[7] Team Fortress 2 Exploits – Dustbowl Skywalking Exploit Still Works After Patch

[8] Busk – Fotografias em lugares assustadoramente altos

[9] LiveJournal – Vadim Mahorov's photoblog

[10] The Telegraph – The Best of Russia 2011 photography competition winners

[11] Mother Nature Network – Russian teens risk their lives for dizzying, sky-high photos

[12] – 'You Can't Hesitate, You Can't Doubt'

[13] PetaPixel – Skywalking: A Dangerous New Photo Fad Popular Among Russian Teens


[15] ABC News – Extreme Climbing in Moscow: 'You Can't Hesitate, You Can't Doubt'

[16] Twitter – Search for Skywalking

[17] Tumblr – Posts tagged Skywalking

[18] 500px – Roof Topper

[19] Flickr – i'll make ya famous

[20] Urban Dictionary – Rooftopping

[21] The Hidden Glasgow – Rooftopping in Glasgow

[22] UER Encyclopedia – Definition for Rooftopping

[23] Wikipedia – Urban Exploration

[24] Flickr – Search results for "rooftopping"

[25] Flickr – Rooftopping group

[26] My Modern Met – Adrenaline Pumping Aerial Photography

[27] PetaPixel – The Amazing “Rooftopping” Photography of Tom Ryaboi

[28] Gothamist – Vertigo-Inducing Trend: Rooftopping

[29] Laughing Squid – Rooftopping, Taking Death Defying Photos From the Tops of Buildings

[30] Reddit – N O P E !

[31] Daily Mail – Just don't look down: Thrill-seeking photography craze brings STUNNING results from the top of the world

[32] 500px – Almost (I'll make ya) Famous

[33] The Moscow Times – Daredevil Photographer Scales Vladivostok Bridges

[34] Gawker – Russian ‘Skywalkers’ Scale 1000-Foot Bridge without Safety Equipment for Fun

[35] The Daily What – This & That

Recent Videos 42 total

Recent Images 30 total

Top Comments

+ Add a Comment

Comments (46)

Display Comments

Add a Comment

'lo! You must login or signup first!