How High Is Too High? Meet Patrick Castillo, the Photographer Chasing Rooftops Around the World

Spiders, snakes, creeping crawling things on many legs, two legs, or no legs at all, the dark, death, falling, and other ethereal abstractions from which there is neither comforting denial of nor escape from. 

In these, we fear not the place or the thing, but the time; the moment where we are found alone with our thoughts, in dread of the thing that lurks and the unknowable danger either down the road or within moments of passing.

That's fear. 

Personally, I'm terrified of heights. I've never flown well. I don't dig ladders. Rock climbing is dumb. Trees are meant for long naps underneath. Swing sets have meaningful limitations. Heights, simply put, are dumb. 

Turns out, I'm not the only one that believes the same... well, sort of.

His name is Patrick Castillo. He is a 22-year-old photographer from the Philippines, and, as it turns out, he's afraid of heights, too. To be honest, that's a little weird considering his Instagram account, ChasingRooftops, is rich with breathtaking shots of places that I would never logically go.

He recently teamed up with hip-hop producer Rodney Hazard in a breathtaking audiovisual collaboration, TwoForTheRoad; a production that sets beautiful time-lapses Patrick captured from around the world to original music produced by Rodney. 


I caught up with Patrick over the phone. 

He was in San Francisco taking the preliminary measures to develop an outreach program to help others in third-world countries see the world, not in the same way that he has, but to have the opportunity to shape their own perspectives. 

We talked about heights. We talked about collaboration, hip-hop, art, travel, the climb, being afraid, and what a rational, logical fear actually was.

chasingrooftops You know that if you wasn't you, you would be dissin' you

"Photography has become the new graffiti artists of this age," he said. "Graffiti artists go to different spots. They tag and they continue their art. Photographers are not replacing them. It’s just a new breed of graffiti artists."

"There's just a joy every time I go up. I realize a lot of things when I go up. Every city's different, and it's very interesting to be above it.

"It's a way of showing that there's more to life than the office or work. People tell me that about my photos, too. They tell me how much it makes them forget their struggle. It makes them remember that there's more to life than what they do every day."

But if we know that there's danger, why do we pursue it? Even if it's to demonstrate this vastly different perspective, why do it? So, I asked him if he had a death wish. He laughed, assuring me no, he definitely doesn't have a death wish. 

chasingrooftops Me and @rodneyhazard will be hosting a gallery in New York City in the month of February. We came together to work on a collaborative audiovisual tape based on the cities we've seen and the work that has been created. I'm very pleased to announce a new instrumental album called #TwoForTheRoad coming out later this month February 19th 8-12am February 20th 12-6pm Living Gallery 1094 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11221

"I think I’m very careful with what I do. My main goal is to make people see what else is in this world. I just want to share with people what else is out there. I'm helping people get more curious about the environment they live in."

People like me, never climbing, never seeing anything from above, living vicariously through the eyes of a daredevil who could and would-- all of that seems reasonable enough, right? 

But it was more than that. It wasn't just for the fans. It wasn't just for the perspective he could lend to others seeking it. There is something self-assuring about the climb. 

chasingrooftops Lost a lot of friends this year but I found my soul. To everyone who support my passion, Thankyou. To the rest who said I won't make it where I am now, I did. 2016 will be one crazy year #hongkong

"The climb is an escape. Not from reality, but from my troubles. When I'm able to actually reach destination, I'm able to put myself in a state of mind where I can actually be at peace."

But how high is too high? Is any rooftop out of reach? Does he know what his limits are?

chasingrooftops Hometown Villains

"To be honest, it really depends. I think people don’t get what they want in life because they try to limit themselves too much. If it’s worth sharing my experience with others, and the weather's bad, I would still do it. The pros have to outweigh the cons, but my fear has saved my life." 

If I limit myself to what I shoot, I limit the life I should be living.

"People are trying to find their life’s purpose. For me, climbing was the way of reasoning that. I was looking for myself, what is my purpose in this world. By climbing I found this out."

What is that purpose?

"It's to see and share the views that no one will ever, ever see. When you're at a certain location, at a certain spot, you know nobody else will ever see that view. I treasure that a lot." 

chasingrooftops "I never lose sleep over my enemies, it's my friends that keep me awake"

Patrick Castillo has been all over the world. From Hong Kong to San Francisco, he's scaled buildings far and wide, near and far, high and low. 

He's seen some of the greatest heights imaginable, and although he initially said that picking his favorite of the places he's climbed was "too complex," the final answer was what you'd expect. 

chasingrooftops Acrophobia

"Every city has a different feel, but I'd say New York is my favorite. It's hard to climb in New York. There’s a different type of adventure every time."

The climb has layers. There are the cops. There are the challenges of getting to the place. There are the challenges of managing the climb at all. Of course, we couldn't talk further without addressing the idea that you must face your fears; that you must overcome; that you must try and try again. 

"You need to be afraid of heights. I’m not going to lie. There are things to be afraid of. Once you reach that fear, that’s when you’re supposed to stop."

As for what Patrick's afraid of, other than heights?

"I'm afraid of parents getting old, that’s about it. Overall, I think in general, I’m afraid of heights, and I’m afraid to fall. But I know I’m responsible enough. I know that I’m in control every time I climb."

We talked about TwoForTheRoad. Patrick says he and Rodney Hazard did TwoForTheRoad to separate themselves as photographers and producers; to give unseen perspectives in unexpected places through unlikely lenses. 

Patrick traveled from Hong Kong, Chicago, to the Philippines, to New York, and Rodney made the music.


"Basically, Rodney and I are always on the road together. We share the same grind, and we share the same passion with why we do what we do. Music, in a lot of ways, inspires what I do. It’s a challenge for me to make music. It intrigues me. It’s a way for me to touch my music side. His music actually touched my photos."

chasingrooftops Your passions will determine your life’s course, whether you like it or not. Make sure your heart is in the right place. - @bobbyhundreds

I couldn't imagine that he'd listen to music as he climbed. I assumed you'd want all of your wits about you with absolutely nothing to distract you, but I didn't consider music as a way of tempering the fear. I almost didn't ask him what the soundtrack of his shots was.

"I listen to music as I climb. It calms me down."

Instrumentals as he climbs, but his top three picks for once he's reached the top? J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, or Kanye West. 

You can catch screenings for a new viewing experience of TwoForTheRoad April 22nd at Madison Square Portfolio.  Make sure you get tickets.

As for the end of the road for Patrick? Where does it end? When is he done?

"That’s what I’m looking for. There’s going to be one climb that tells me to stop climbing, but I don't think I'll ever actually stop."

Check out the Photographer Who Takes the Most Beautiful Pictures of Snow in NYC. 

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