A New York ‘Rooftopper’ on Climbing the City’s Skyscrapers for Instagram
Just one scroll through Martin Czer’s instagram feed makes you want to simultaneously be his friend and call his mom.
The daredevil rooftop climber is hooked on adrenaline. Most of his photos are taken from staggering heights. Whether he is precariously perched on the rooftops of New York’s highest skyscrapers, standing on the apex of a towering building, or dangling his feet off stories of scaffolding, Marty paints a fresh and Gotham-esque portrait of a city we thought we knew so well.
Read our Q&A with Marty but please don’t try this at home.
How did you get into “rooftopping”?
I got into photography itself a few years ago. I was never motivated enough to go out and shoot photos, I would just bring my camera during trips or getaways and things of that nature. I started seeing mind blowing, inspiring photographer feeds on Instagram and slowly started uncovering this whole world of photography on Instagram that I wanted to be a part of. Soon enough I came across a group of photographers who called themselves “urban explorers” on Instagram. This was super cool to me, seeing photos of people climbing bridges, roaming tunnels going on rooftops and stuff and I thought it was fascinating. I appreciate all types of photography but what stuck with me out of everything in that “urban explorer” category of photography was rooftop photography, so I invest my time and energy into what I enjoy most, photographing the city from rooftops.
How long have you been rooftopping?
This April 2016 will make one year since I’ve been rooftopping.
Have you made a lot of friends through it?
I met some fantastic people and can honestly say that I did make some great friends from photography in general. However, the few people that I shoot with regularly — like nine out of 10 times, regularly — I’ve known for years before getting involved in rooftopping and we all kind of got into it together.
Can you talk a little bit about the scene?
It’s just a bunch of people who inspire and motivate each other to get better photos, learn better editing techniques and have a super chill time hanging out. There are those who are competitive in a sense and do this for different reasons but mostly everyone that I met is down to earth, chill and fun to be around.
What are the legal implications if you get caught?
Most of the time this requires trespassing, which is illegal. The implications vary from case to case. I’d say it all depends on the situation, how you deal with it and whether or not someone is having a bad day. Most of the time the consequences should be minor in my experience but you never know and I don’t recommend anyone do this if they have had extensive trouble with the law in the past, that can make a mediocre trespassing charge a lot more severe for you.
Have you ever been caught?
Yes, I have been caught before.
Have you ever been in any scary situations?
Most of these experiences are scary to the majority of people. Simply being up on top of a skyscraper is frightening to most people, let alone dangling your feet off of a roof. My number one priority on rooftops is safety, not just of myself but of everyone with me and around me. Sure, things can go wrong, but when you’re in a state of near maximum awareness of your every step and breath, [it feels like] the chances of something tragic happening are extremely minimal. In my opinion, it is more dangerous for me to be driving my car or crossing the street than to be doing what I do on rooftops. Not to mention, you won’t see me or the people I’m with doing extremely risky things. We are all very cautious and aware of the potential for danger.
Why do you do it and what do you love most about it?
I do this for a lot of reasons. Obviously for the photography aspect of it, the photos that I’m able to take are aesthetically fascinating to me, let alone priceless by virtue of the fact that I’ll be able to look back at them years or weeks from now and tell a story about my experiences while taking them. The experience itself is something that’s probably most meaningful to me though, not everybody gets the chance to see these views out in the open not restrained by an observatory window or whatever. Not just the views but the history of some of these older skyscrapers is so crazy, just knowing that you’re on top of a nearly century year old skyscraper is beyond my ability to express in words from the architecture to the design it’s just insane. I guess you could say I’m sort of an adrenaline junkie, I’ve always done things that give me a rush whether it’s extreme skiing, cliff jumping whatever it is it always seems like I become attracted and gravitate towards these adrenaline rush provoking hobbies. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing but I enjoy it so that’s all that matters.
Will you ever stop climbing rooftops?
Eventually I obviously won’t physically be able to walk up 50 or 60 flights of stairs or climb cranes, so it’s safe to say I will at one point not be able to, but at this point now I can safely say that I will always be into photography and I will be climbing rooftops for the meantime and I will be traveling to climb rooftops but I’m also interested in many other themes of photography. We are however in a state of constant evolution so I can also imagine that I will eventually find something new that excites me just as much, we’ll see.
What do your friends and family think about you doing this?
My friends appreciate my photography. They commend me for spending so much time and energy into this. Whether they completely understand the feeling that it brings or not I’m not sure about, but I have support from the majority of my friends. There are those select few who think it’s a waste of time and dangerous, but whatever. My family knows I do this and they are fascinated by the photographs, but of course my safety is a concern, understandable.
How is the photographic process different with the bird’s eye view?
It is totally different working with skylines and different lighting situations rather than a simple image. I’m not so sure if it’s different than any photo of a skyline that you take from the ground though. Every photo is different and 10 minutes of more or less sunlight can make a huge impact on your potential method for editing the photo. The post photographic processing is one of the best parts to me. It is not always easy but it is rewarding to be able to put your twist on an image.
What super hero are you most like and why?
Haha I’m not really sure, I guess the cliché answer would be Spider Man or Batman or something like that, but nah. I’m just Marty and I’m out here having a good time.
Would you consider yourself an adrenaline junkie?
Yes, that’s for sure. But like everything else in life, there has to be a balance. Too much of one thing is not a good thing and my future success is what I’m really hooked on.
Where are you if you aren’t on a rooftop?
I am a pre-med student studying biology, if I am not out taking photos on rooftops or in general then I am either studying or working. If I am not studying or working then I am spending time with friends or family who do not do this.