‘Rooftopping’ Is Popular on Instagram, but the Risks Are High

Remi Lucidi, a sergeant in the French Army, died removed from a battlefield. His body was discovered final week apart a Hong Kong skyscraper the place he had been noticed close to the rooftop.

In his spare time, Mr. Lucidi, 30, was a “rooftopper,” shorthand for somebody who takes photographs and selfies from the tops of tall buildings, typically by trespassing. After his demise was reported, some Instagram customers debated the worth and goal of his artwork, which concerned clambering onto ledges and antennae in cities throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

To pals and admirers, Mr. Lucidi’s spine-tingling photographs had been the work of a gifted, stressed adventurer. To his critics, they had been a case research in reckless risk-taking.

That debate mirrors tensions inside a broader motion known as “urban exploration,” or “urbex,” one that’s usually related to individuals who trespass with the intention to inform the tales of deserted properties. Rooftopping is a part of urbex, but lots of its practitioners are extra eager about producing social media content material than in exploring marginal city landscapes with a quasi-academic spirit.

In an excessive instance, the Russian mannequin Viki Odintcova dangled from a Dubai skyscraper with out security gear. Her stunt generated greater than 1.6 million views after she posted it on Instagram in 2017, and loads of criticism.

“To Model Viki Odintcova: That Photo Was Really Not Worth Risking Your Life,” learn the headline of a Forbes commentary. (She didn’t reply to a request for remark.) Several others round the world have died whereas rooftopping in recent times.

Criticism typically comes from inside the urban-exploration motion. A outstanding rooftooper, the Toronto-based photographer Neil Ta, give up the apply a couple of decade in the past, saying that he had been disillusioned to see the pastime flip right into a contest over who may take the most harmful footage. Other critics are urbex veterans who object to the rooftopping ethos.

“Rooftopping is focused more on the thrill and the experience of being in high, vertiginous and perilous locations, whereas urbex explores abandoned places in a way that is safer, more documentational and historical in nature,” HK Urbex, a collective of masked explorers in Hong Kong, stated in a press release.

HK Urbex, whose members enterprise into deserted or harmful websites throughout the Chinese territory as a approach of exploring its historical past, stated that rooftoppers have died round the world from a mix of inexperience, overconfidence and the want to take thrilling footage.

“A life is not worth a like on social media,” the collective stated.

Theo Kindynis, a sociologist who has studied rooftopping, stated that to many city explorers, younger rooftoppers who have interaction in made-for-Instagram antics are generally known as “dangle kiddies.”

“Remi’s Instagram is full of the same tropes — legs dangling in front of a cityscape, selfie stick on top of a mast, silhouetted figure on a ledge — that were already becoming cliché in 2016,” stated Mr. Kindynis, a professor at Goldsmiths, University of London, referring to Mr. Lucidi.

Some rooftoppers push again towards that characterization. One is Baptiste Hermant, 23, a Frenchman who has posted “dangling” photos but described himself in an interview as an explorer, not a rooftopper.

Mr. Hermant stated most of his city exploration occurs off digital camera, and that he does it primarily for the pleasure of consuming beer together with his pals on rooftops, after nighttime climbs, whereas watching the dawn.

“To be on a roof is just my thing,” Mr. Hermant stated, including that he sees city exploration as a pure outgrowth of a childhood spent scaling rocks and bushes.

As for Mr. Lucidi, his pals described him in interviews as an skilled climber who had a specific curiosity in Hong Kong’s dramatic skyline. A statement posted to considered one of his Instagram pages this week known as him an “extraordinary photographer who captured the beauty of the world from breathtaking heights.”

One of his pals, the Bulgarian rooftopper Yordan Boev, stated on Instagram that he deliberate to “conquer fear everyday” as a approach of honoring his buddy’s legacy.

“Steel towers are very much like friendships,” he wrote in another post that confirmed the two males taking a selfie collectively in Bulgaria, with Mr. Lucidi holding the digital camera. “We build them strong and tall.”

Julien Kolly, a gallerist in Zurich who represents a French graffiti artist identified for city exploration, stated that Mr. Lucidi reminded him of Alain Robert, a French stuntman who has scaled buildings round the world for many years. He added that Mr. Lucidi’s social media posts had been merely a product of his period.

“During his time, Alain Robert could only rely on the press to cover his ascents, whereas nowadays, Remi Enigma takes charge of staging and photographing his own exploits to feed his Instagram account,” Mr. Kolly stated, referring to Mr. Lucidi’s Instagram nom de plume.

Mr. Lucidi’s demise was confirmed by phone on Thursday by the French army and reported earlier by The South China Morning Post and different information shops. He was on trip in Hong Kong when he died, stated a French army spokesperson who declined to be named, citing protocol.

The Hong Kong authorities haven’t confirmed the actual circumstances of the demise, saying solely that the cops discovered Mr. Lucidi’s body after responding to a name from a safety guard.

Mr. Lucidi’s Instagram web page consists of 143 posts from excursions round the world — London, Bangkok, Dubai, Mexico City and so on. In one put up, he explained that he traveled broadly “to get more adrenaline to find a better way to enjoy life.”

Many of his posts had been accompanied by hashtags like #urbanrogues and #scaryhighstuffs, and playful captions that made mild of the dangers he took to get his photographs.

“Relaxing on the Edge,” he wrote of lying on a roof ledge in Warsaw two years in the past.

Mr. Lucidi had made a number of journeys to Hong Kong. His final goal there was the Tregunter Towers, a three-building luxurious residence that sits on a quiet, winding street close to the mountainous backbone of the metropolis’s primary island — high above the trams, buses, workplace buildings and pedestrians under. The South China Morning Post reported {that a} witness had seen him knocking on the window of a 68th-floor penthouse.

On Friday morning, safety guards at the complicated had been standing behind a black gate shrouded by subtropical foliage with purple flowers. Domestic employees guided pedigree canines and baby strollers up and down slim, twisting sidewalks.

Just a few runners had been heading additional uphill, towards a hiking path that climbs by means of a forest to a mountain peak with panoramic views. Some paused to look again at the identical skyline that Mr. Lucidi had captured in his last post.

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