Art Featured Photography

Tom Ryaboi’s Perspective-Laden Photographs Will Make You Hold On

Written by:
James_mcbride
Apr 14, 2014

by James McBride

There is a point in almost every piece by photographer Tom Ryaboi when you get a sharp jolt of vertigo, a queasy drop in your stomach. You have been marveling at the majestic skylines captured from his daring rooftop vantage points when suddenly you look “down” and realize – there is nothing below the camera except for the street hundreds of meters below.

The danger – and exhilaration – inherent in Ryaboi’s unconventional portraits of our biggest urban spaces come from two directions. The first is the excitement of seeing the everyday streets revealed from on high as a massive, intertwined urban ecology of steel, concrete, light, and human bustle. As Ryaboi puts it: “The whole metropolis is at the tip of your fingers…like the king of the city.”

The second, equally important, attraction is the thrill of accessing forbidden spaces, of breaking the rules, written or unwritten, for who can go where, and why. Ryaboi, much like the broader movement of urban explorers (“urbex”) of which he is a part, uses his art to recast trespassing, turning it into a reclamation of the public’s right to access and experience the built environment that impacts every aspect of our lives. On the most human level, this kind of high wire photography is about a turbo-charged curiosity, a lust for exploration and adventure.

Artistically, Ryaboi’s urban portraits combine personal courage, persistence in difficult working conditions, and impressive technique. His eye is drawn to the contrast between the imposing geometric exoskeleton of the city and the organic, fragile singularity of the human form which inhabits it.

His photographs swing between mind bending cliffhangers and playful portraits of daily street life. He explores both the tops of the tallest skyscrapers and the underground passageways that circulate through the city like veins. There is a constant interplay, a conversation, between the city’s quotidian moments and the massive but under-appreciated engineering feats that make urban life possible.

Throughout it all, from Ryaboi’s native Toronto to the towers of Hong Kong, we are treated to dynamic and often unsettling portraits of cities in constant transition. Clambering through buildings both half-finished and half-destroyed, the rebellious photographer makes it clear how fleeting even our most impressive structures really are – and in doing so forces us to contemplate our precarious place among the giants of steel and concrete that surround us.

Enjoy more great arts coverage on IPMM.

Shout out to Atlantic Cities for bringing Tom Ryaboi’s work to our attention!

Find more of Ryaboi’s work at his personal website, Instagram account, and Twitter.

Enjoy more great arts coverage on IPMM.

Written by:
James_mcbride
Apr 14, 2014

tags: art, Hong Kong, photography, Tom Ryaboi, toronto, urban exploration, urbex