Who-Is-He : Kirill Vselensky : The truth about skywalking

Skywalking roofingOne shouldn’t seek for adventures somewhere far away, for you can find them in your own city — this is the motto of Kirill Vselensky, the person we’re interviewing today. He is an extremely popular Russian roofer, who’s been numerously reported of by the biggest printed and web media, both Russian and international. Though being illegally taken, Kirill team’s photos are in great commercial demand. There’s no roof in Moscow that Kirill wouldn’t have reached, that’s why his activity is spread far away from Russia. Speaking of his deeds, it’s sufficient to mention his ‘conquests’ onto the Pyramids, the Blue Mosque and into the Belarus metro tunnels. However, Kirill has another important achievement — he has monetized roofing and made it his main profession by launching the Moscow Views project. In this interview Kirill tells Who Are They Magazine about his adventures, objectives and business, strange and unfamiliar to many people.

— Tell us please, how did you come to such life? Roofing? Really?
— I’m not unique. I saw Victor Professor’s photos captured from an abandoned radio station in Galich (it’s 350m high — Eds.). Then I subscribed to his page on LiveJournal and later found Varlamov, who was getting popular with his photos he took from the roofs. Though, unlike most roofers, he was doing it legally: in the comments under one of the pictures I found the following: ‘Thanks to Donstroy for the picture’ (Donstroy is the Russian building company — Eds.). I wrote a letter to Donstroy, asking to let me in. Certainly, nobody answered. Then I discovered that lots of young people knew how to get to the roofs themselves. Nevertheless, it’s always been difficult to become a member of the roofing society: people who are new to this simply don’t understand that no one will take you to the roof for nothing. Eventually, my friend and I started to climb up the roofs ourselves, hot on the trail. For example, you see someone’s pictures, you go there, for you know — this place is still open. For a start, we climbed on typical blocks of flats somewhere in the centre, but later we switched to higher buildings like Moscow City (the greatest office center in Moscow — Eds.). It used to be easier to get there. Some time later I bought a camera, as I wanted to show the beauty that couldn’t be seen by anyone.

— How long have you been a roofer?
— Since I was 16.
— Do you often get caught by the police?
— Not often, but it happens. It’s not a serious crime here in Russia, as it’s not prohibited by law to walk on the roof. Roof doors are usually sealed and the worst thing you can get is a 100-ruble fine (about 3$ — Eds.) for tearing away the seal. Though if the territory is secured, according to the article 20.17 from the administrative law “Breaching the access control of a secured building”, the fine is 500 rubles, I was fined just twice.

— You’ve decided to commercialize your activity. How old is MoscowViews and how is this project self-sufficient?
— Moscow Views has recently celebrated its first birthday. We thought it over and decided that we possess some actual skills and knowledge that other photographers lack, and taking this into account we’ve started to take absolutely different types of photos. Once I was surfing Google for some photos of Moscow and as the citizen of this city I was ashamed that those photos could had been printed somewhere. My friends and I had a huge file of different pictures so we decided to start up some kind of a photobank with our pictures of Moscow. That’s how the MoscowViews project was born. Commercialization happens mostly from pictures of interior, architecture and different constructions for building companies, as well as views of the city for calendars.
Skywalking roofing
— How many clients do you have now?
— It’s difficult to count, but we’re kept busy all the time! Our main work now is interior. We have 2 contracts with real estate agencies and we’re constantly taking pictures of cottages, penthouses and so on for them. The Yaroslavl’s administration has ordered photos of their city in winter. Actually, they didn’t care much how they would get those pictures — they just wanted a quality product. Our first commercial project started quite unexpectedly from the Moskovskiy bridge in Kiev, where we filmed how we got on top of it. We didn’t expect the video to get 1.5 000 000 views. After that different companies began to find us themselves. For instance, we did a video for Chupa Chups on the bridge to Russkiy island which received 2.5 000 000 views in 2 weeks. We also filmed a promo for the last episode of the Spiderman movie. Sure it’s quite difficult to commercialize roofing as it’s all illegal. Lots of companies refuse to support us openly. Nevertheless, different fashion brands work with us and regularly send us their new collections.
Skywalking roofing
Skywalking roofing
— I think it will be interesting for everybody read about your most scandalous trips: to Egypt, for example, to Belarus or the bridge to Russkiy island. How long does it take to prepare for such kind of a trip and what are the secrets of success?
— I think the key secret of success is not to be afraid of the impossible. Everything is possible. And if you cannot achieve something once you’ve tried it, you should do it over and over again or, maybe, change your tactics. One of our most scandalous trips happened in Moscow — we climbed on the Federation Tower. Its owner — Mr. Polonskiy — declared his building to be the safest in Europe. There is a swimming pool and a private club on the top floor and it’s impossible to get in without being invited by Mr. Polonskiy himself. Still we broke in, took some pictures and posted them on LiveJournal. Eventually, the post got to the top and Mr. Polonskiy himself commented it: ‘Cool pictures, guys’. Nevertheless, we received some threatening calls from Mirax’s security. They also demanded to delete the post and we actually did so. The funny thing is that a little later we got the job from Mr. Polonskiy. He had a meeting with bloggers and we went there as well. Security came up to us a couple of times and warned that if we had tried to approach Mr. Polonskiy, we wouldn’t have left the building alive. Later I found out that the guards created accounts in social networks and were following our activity.

Then we went to Belarus. We reached every roof in the centre of the city, including the one in front of KGB and Lukashenko’s residence. However, the most scandalous intrusion there turned out to be the city metro. Probably, it was so because of the terrorist attack just 6 months before that. We managed to get there through Metrostroy, took pictures and wrote a post with an underlying message that the government couldn’t be hiding its secrets forever. They were really upset with it, and we got tons of threatening calls from the President’s administration. After that we went to the Russkiy island. There we again experienced some trouble with social networks. We climbed on the bridge and, as always, started to post to Twitter and Instagram, but were noticed by a crane operator who made us climb down to the ground, where the local police were already waiting for us. The Russkiy bridge was an object of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, so everybody was on alert. The security called the police, the police called the transport prosecutor’s office and the transport prosecutor’s office called the Federal Security Service. The crucial point was to explain traveling and taking pictures was our hobby. Finally, they set us free, but made us pay 500 rubles. Though the police took some time to look through the criminal code trying to find an article that could send us to jail.

Our first trip abroad was the adventure to Istanbul, where we managed to climb on top of the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar. By the way, it’s very important to look into the local laws before you go to a place. For instance, you may be put in jail for three months in Dubai for such climbs and be booked or arrested for a month in USA. We were caught by a policeman with a dog and a gun at Grand Bazaar, and we knew he had the right to use the latter. We were beaten pretty much and taken to the police office. The chief of the police happened to know Russian (he studied there) and explained that ’Take photography is bad, they think we robbers that’s why hit us’. After he apologized and set us free, we ran to the Bazaar, asked those very policemen to allow us to take some photos there, and they did, like we were ’old friends’. That’s how it went along with the foreign police for the first time.

The next trip was to Egypt, Cairo. I stayed in a hotel right in front of the pyramids, and devoted 2 days to tours trying to understand how I could climb onto them. There is military emergency in Egypt, that’s why the pyramids are guarded by soldiers. I found a hole in the fence and in half an hour managed to reach the top of one of the pyramids, took some photos from there and went down at dawn. Unfortunately, when I was climbing over the fence on my way back, one of the locals noticed me. When such a thing happens in Russia, you just run away, and nobody cares. In my case, that citizen chased me, crying something very loudly in Arabic. I ran into one of the houses, where again was noticed and soon caught. After beating me for a while, these people began to barter. I was told I could be jailed for spying. We reached the barter at 300 dollars, and I was let go. That night the hotel’s director with the chief imam of Cairo knocked on my door telling me they found the man who chased me. The latter apologized several times and returned the money to me. Everything turned up to be very cool! When we posted these photos on the web, they were instantly reported about on BBC, CNN and by lots of other media. The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism reacted and sent a message that they wanted to punish me for the thing I’ve done. That’s why my future trips to Egypt can be rather problematic, though I will be able to visit this country, as well as Belarus, under my real name.

— We think there will be no drama if you don’t visit these countries — you did everything you wanted to there. Are you always acting secretly or do you have to make arrangements with someone from time to time?
— In general, there’s no point in making arrangements. I understand the guards: they all are seriously responsible for security. It’s much easier to agree on something with the heads of various organizations, but, as a rule, there are few of them ready to talk. In addition, you have to violate safety regulations to take cool photos.
Russkiy bridge skywalkers roofers
Metro underground tube subway diggers
The Pyramids skywalking roofing russian
— What are the objectives of your actions? Is it only about reaching the venue or also provoking people?
— I think I’m a provoker, in a sense. As for the objectives, there are three of them: adventures, unique photographs and the feelings you experience when climbing somewhere high.

— Tell us about the people who make up your team and their responsibilities.
— MoscowViews is me and Dmitry Balashov. To my mind, he takes the best photos of Moscow. We also involve our friends for implementing big projects.

— You have numerous followers on different social networks, you were seen on TV with interviews. What do you think about the reason of your project’s success and what makes you different from other roofers?
— Don’t know whether this is my merit, but when we made all our climbings, they were a novelty. I mean, we were the first to climb on top of the Kotyelnichesky apartment building, onto the Red Gates etc. There are lots of places where we were the first. Beginners in this area won’t receive such ‘ovations’, because it was all done before them. You should always do something new, that’s why we rarely climb in Moscow now.
Skywalking roofing
— What are your future plans?
— I’m going to China on winter holidays and to the USA in spring. We’ve also been ordered a 4-city project under which we’ll have to take photos of Paris, Barcelona, Dubai and Hong Kong.

— What advice would you give to young people as you, who are only dreaming of roofing? Which traits of character they should have and is it all worth doing?
— I wouldn’t advice anyone to be into roofing. You should find another hobby or activity, not related with the risk of life.

— You are just 21 now. Will you be a roofer when you’re 30 or older?
— I think I won’t. First of all, there will be no new objects to climb on in three or four years, and second, in 30 or 40 I’d like to do something more calm.
Skywalking roofing


— The happiest event in your life?
— The purchase of a motorbike.

— What would you like to change in yourself?
— I’d like to stop being late.

— What do you like in yourself?
— Determination.

— The place where you feel best of all?
— In the center of Moscow.

— With whom of the living people would you like to get acquainted?
— With Linkin Park’s frontman.

— The country you’ve never been to, but would like to visit?
— The USA.

— What traits of character do you appreciate most in a woman?
— Her care and affection.

— What’s your favourite activity?
— Riding a motorbike.

— Tea or chicory?
— Tea.
Kirill Vselensky


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