Extreme Photography: Climbing the World’s Tallest Building

One early morning, one world landmark, and one brave photographer make for one epic photo shoot. Joe McNally recently climbed the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, in an extreme quest for unusual and unique photographic perspectives:

After taking an elevator to “level 160,” the last concrete platform on the building, McNally tested his own endurance by tackling seemingly endless flights of steel stairs, then harnessing up to climb the last couple hundred meters of the tower. At the top, he photographed two maintenance workers who do this kind of potentially dangerous work every day, dangling more than 2,700 feet above the desert metropolis below.

“You don’t want to go to the top of this tower and just take a snap looking down; you want a person in that frame. You want a reference point — a sense of humanity in the midst of this giant structure. And you also want to celebrate this very unique skill that these guys have. I mean, these guys are truly ‘high-wire’ guys, and I’ll be photographing them with a nod to the athleticism, the strength, and the precision that they bring to these kinds of climbs.”

burj khalifa
camera at the tallest building
portrait on tallest building

So why climb the tower? Why go through the physical and mental stress — because even someone with no fear of heights has to get a little nervous being so high above the ground, right? Well, McNally seems to have the same answer as the first man to scale Mount Everest when asked why he would want to climb the forbidding mountain: just “because it’s there.” (Via New York Times)

“I’ve always been a big fan of getting my camera in a different place and trying to just seek the unusual vantage point. The tower is obviously a commanding presence; it sort of sprang out of the desert here. . . . It’s got a beauty and an allure to it, which is also part of the reason that you just want to go and climb this thing and get to the top of it, see what the mystery is all about and what that view might be like from the tallest manmade point on the planet.”

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3 responses to “Extreme Photography: Climbing the World’s Tallest Building”

  1. Ian Downey says:

    Bravo, Bravo,
    I must take my hat off to Joe Mc Nally for doing what he did in climbing up there so as to be able to capture a series of images taken from a different perspective to the norm – like from the top of the world`s tallest building if you don`t mind. I fully appreciate he would have been well secured etc.etc. but, nevertheless, it still took some physical effort for a man of his age to even climb up there in the first place never mind after that suspending himself hanging out on a line to take, or should I say `make` in his case, photographs after that. You deserve a lot of credit for that.

    Well done to you.

  2. Mark says:

    I went to Joe’s class in the Twin cities in April and he showed his video of this. It was mind blowing!

  3. My knees turned to jelly just watching this video. Wouldn’t get me up there! Excellent shots of which you won’t see many similar.

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