New Heights

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South Korean-born artist Ahn Jun may seem like a daredevil, but her vertiginous self-portraits atop skyscrapers aren't so much about conquering a fear of heights -- they reflect a deeper angst about the void of urban metropolises. "Whenever people are put on the edge of something, human beings become vulnerable," she says. From Seoul to Hong Kong to New York, Ahn has scaled the tallest buildings she could access, perching precariously on ledges, her feet dangling far, far above the hard ground. Since starting the project in 2008, she has climbed dozens of skyscrapers, and has no plans to stop. "I might not look afraid in the photographs," Ahn says. "But it can be scary."

Above: on a window ledge in New York.


Occasionally, Ahn will use harnesses or riggings to secure herself in extremely precarious situations. Above, the artist atop a building in Seoul.


To get the right shot, Ahn sets up a remote camera, which automatically takes pictures -- several per second -- until the memory card is full. Above, she perches in New York.


A snowy night in New York City.


A vertigo-inducing view of a traffic intersection in Seoul.


Fireworks over Manhattan. 


Ahn says that most people who live in towering apartment buildings only look out horizontally to "that beautiful skyline view." Her work attempts to express the vulnerability that comes when you look down. "When they are on the edge of the building and looking down, instant fear comes," she says.


"Whenever people are put on the edge of something, human beings become vulnerable," says Ahn. Above, the artist perched atop Hong Kong.


"Sometimes I needed to get permission from police or security officers in the case of landmark buildings. It happens usually in Korea," says Ahn. "And sometimes I just go up." 


"I believe in an instant of life, our reality meets with dream or fantasy, although we cannot perceive that since it's too short and vulnerable," says Ahn. Above, the artist contemplates Seoul's metropolis.


"My dress is ultramarine violet," Ahn says. "It's my favorite color. I like the profound meaning it symbolizes: death, nobility."


"Sometimes my body is peacefully melted into the environment without fear; sometimes it can be an aggressive moment as my body is jumping out to the world of illusion," Ahn says.

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