“Acrobat” Photog Defies Death To Capture View At The Top Of The World

“From above, the mundane seemed more divine.”

Wouter van Buuren is not only a photographer, he is also an acrobat.” That’s how one art gallery describes, perhaps too mildly, the 39-year-old Dutch photographer who scales utility poles, tip-toes across bridges, and climbs out the windows of skyscrapers to capture breathtaking vistas of cities and rural landscapes from the top of the man-made world.


Van Buuren then takes the photographs and stitches them together to create dizzying “total landscapes”–sphere-shaped panoramas that imitate a satellite’s view of the earth. He doesn’t use Photoshop. Instead, for each landscape, he painstakingly lays out 100 photos or more, trusting to his own patience and steady hands (traits you’d hope for in a guy who defies death for a living).

“I started to make the total landscapes in the Netherlands when I was climbing electricity pylons,” he tells Co.Design. “I was stunned by the beauty of the landscape I thought I knew so well. From above the mundane seemed more divine. So I continued to do this and extended this to cranes, bridges and buildings and other countries all over the world.”

To date, van Buuren has snapped pictures on everything from a construction crane in Rotterdam to a skyscraper in Shanghai to a famous bridge in New York. The most dangerous place he’s ever shot? “A ladder outside a high-rise building on the 55th floor,” he says. “Because I didn’t bring a security belt, I had to tightly grip my hands on the small roof platform. …It’s funny how you can get used to heights. After a while I have no problem walking over the edge without any security, as long as there’s no wind.”

Our favorite photographs are the ones where he puts himself in the composition. We catch a glimpse of his foot dangling out over here or his hand gripping the crane for dear life over there–evidence of the acrobat hard at work.

[Images courtesy of Wouter van Buuren; hat tip to Notcot]


About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.