Interview by Steve Roe
Rooftopping, the practice of walking precariously on the edge of the rooftops of skyscrapers. YouTube videos can often leave people tense and dizzy and even some angry, but what leads people to do this? It looks like the ultimate thrill-seekers dream, and can also make for some stunning photographs. We spoke to South Korea-based rooftopper Dominique Jung, who along with his rooftopping adventures, is a fantastic street-portrait photographer.
First of all, let’s talk equipment, what do you use to shoot with?
I use a Canon 60D. My lenses are a 10-18mm, an 18-55mm kit lens, and for my portraits I only use the 50mm f1.8.
I want to get straight in to rooftopping, can you tell me more about it and the rush that you feel whilst doing it? Is the danger always on your mind?
Rooftoping for me is a photography genre or style. It's a trend nowadays, but rooftopping is not for everybody since it is really dangerous and illegal. But forcing yourself to get the shot from the top of the building gives you the city vibe that you can never see on the ground. But be very cautious! The feeling is amazing, it's like accomplishing something. The danger is always there. Walking on the edge without a harness or any safety gear is crazy but it has this weird feeling that when I feel I'm in danger, I feel more alive than ever. But I repeat, rooftopping is not for everybody. Especially if you don't have the skills to think fast.
Which was the most exciting rooftop that you’ve done?
Probably this one rooftop on the east side of seoul. So my friend and I planned to scout buildings that we have never been to (in the middle of Seoul), but during that day all of them are either locked or have a security passcode. We were about to give up because it was late at night, but we said just one more, let's hit up the east side. We hit the subway (to the east side of Seoul) and found the tallest building in the area. We walked in and up to the heliport but there were CCTV cameras on every door, but we found another door maybe for workers only. We went through that one and there it was, the helipad, but there was a small narrow staircase with CCTV to get on the helipad. So we climbed it like ninjas in order not to get caught on video and we made it. The spot was really stunning, you can see the Lotte Tower acting like a watch tower over Seoul. I think the lesson there is to never give up!
Now let’s talk about your portrait work, are your shoots planned before hand or do you wander looking for new spots and ideas?
Before, I would just ask my friends or models to shoot with me as fast possible since I wanted to create a portfolio shoot. But, now as I progress, I am finding that planning is very important to have more of an impact for the photo and feel more confident than the snapshot photos. Every time I'm outside my eyes are always looking for good locations so that I can visualize my shot and what the model should wear, which is typically black and dark clothing. Now, I'm trying to find a new concept for my portraits and to not just do night portraits. I want to include props or long dresses, but it is still in process.
Let’s close with your top 3 photos that you’ve taken so far, and if you could also tell us a bit about each shot.
The first photo I think would be the best long exposure or light trail I've ever done. It's just my favorite.
The second one is a photo with my friend holding the Korean flag. Every time I look at this photo it feels like we representing Korea, the rooftop culture in Korea and that we are one of the pioneers.
The third one for me is a representation of what I do, urban and portrait. But this photo is barely edited because of the sunlight. The colors of the building and clothes really matching up well together. Usually, I edit the colors very hard and I push all the levels up high on Lightroom, but not with this one.