“Urban exploring” — climbing atop bridges, roaming underground subway tunnels, or trespassing into construction zones — has become increasingly popular in the past two years, and punishments have grown more and more strict.
Perpetrators can potentially be arrested, fined, and even flagged by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force — not to mention the massive safety risks they take when they scale these structures.
One urban explorer, a 19-year-old daredevil photographer known as Kostennn to his followers, has risked a lot to get the perfect shot.
Inspired by the skateboarding and graffiti culture that he’s been entrenched in since he was 16, Kostennn has been photographing his crew ever since he picked up a camera. “[Photography] has become my lifestyle and source of income,” he told Business Insider.
While his more than 200,000 Instagram followers have the luxury of enjoying his work from the safety of their phone screens, Kostennn has done some pretty dangerous things for his work. He shared some of his most exciting stories with us.
One of New York City's most mysterious, forbidden spots is the underground subway system. While the famous 'third rail' poses an immediate danger (you can die of electric shock if you touch it), according to Kostennn, it's 'super easy to avoid.' However, the subway tunnels are still a dangerous place to explore.
'Exploring the underground of NYC is a game only a few dare to mess around with,' Kostennn said. 'Dodging security cameras, trains, and the MTA police is a difficult task when trying to shoot photos.'
'One night I had the opportunity to find my way to this tunnel. At about 5:30 a.m., I was risking the fact that I could bump into MTA workers at any moment,' he said. 'Right when I was wrapping up to head out, I heard and saw five workers coming down towards my way. I quickly had to find my way out the station immediately.'
'In early 2015 New York City had a snowstorm that shut down the city for the night. I immediately had the idea to head to the Manhattan Bridge to shoot photos (of it) with no cars,' Kostennn said.
'I had to make sure I wasn't seen by any police patrolling the bridge. If you look closely in the photo you can see car lights of a police car coming my way. I made my way back to the pedestrian walkway smoothly.'
'One afternoon my homie and I decided it was time to finally get on top of one of the tallest residential buildings in New York City,' Kostennn said.
'After a solid hour of trying to find a way into the building, we snuck up behind a resident of the building and found our way to the roof. As the fog got heavy and snow started to fall, we were in the middle of a storm literally on top of the city while trying to get our photos. As it got darker and the storm cleared up a little bit, a helicopter came by and put a spotlight on us. We made our way back down and quickly found our way out of the building.'
Kostennn travels light. His camera, a pair of gloves, and a flashlight are the main items he packs. 'The less things you have, the more mobile you can be, especially if you run into some trouble and need to leave ASAP,' he said.
'Majority of the buildings in Chicago's downtown are uptight and difficult to get in due to the security at the front door. After finding our way in and making our way onto this roof, we caught some epic fog. We quickly got our photos and left the building immediately because of all the (security) cameras.'
'Riding around Manhattan on an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) is as reckless as it sounds. Following around the homie @Asap_tyy and capturing photos of him running the streets of Times Square was intense. Eventually we had to part ways because of how heated the NYPD were on the streets,' Kostennn said.
'(The 'City Hall' abandoned subway station) has always been one of my favourite underground NYC spots I've explored,' Kostennn said. The station currently serves as a turn-around spot for trains on the MTA's 6 line.
'Making your way past the 6 train and constantly having to hide when the 6 train comes around the abandoned station is super intense,' he said.
This past winter, Kostennn decided it was time to climb one of Chicago's tallest construction cranes. 'After 50+ stairs and dodging a couple of security guards, we got to the top. It was one of the windiest nights I've experienced in a while, so climbing around the roof and crane was super sketchy. We stayed for a couple of hours and made our way out of the construction site before anybody saw us,' he said.
One of the more difficult sites to break into was this abandoned NFL stadium. Kostennn and his friend explored the space for about two hours, shooting and walking around. Just as they decided to go, security pulled up.
'As we were making our way out, security pulled up next to us on the other side of the fence right outside the stadium,' he said. 'As soon as we saw him, we started running towards our parked car across the highway. We were faster than that security cop and made it out smooth.'
'In Newark, New Jersey, there's an abandoned theatre sitting in the middle of the city,' Kostennn said. 'Getting into this theatre is super sketchy due to the fact that you have to climb a rusted fire escape on the side of the building when everyone (below) walking around (the) area could (easily) see you ... it's a must to be quick during that climb.'
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