The Peabody Award-winning Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, from PRI and WNYC, is public radio’s smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy – so let Studio 360 steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.
January 27th, 2015
Episode 32 of 201 episodes
Humza Deasisn’t impressed by his nearly 100,000 Instagram followers, though he should be. He earned every one surfing subways, climbing bridges, and scaling New York City’s skyscrapers for the perfect photo. The ambitious 17-year-old taught himself everything he knows about trespassing and now, on the cusp of adulthood, he’s teaching himself how to be an even better photographer. It’s not exactly surprising that a high school student in 2015 started taking photos on a smart phone. “I never owned my first camera until four or five months ago,” Deas says. At the age of 16, he bought a second-hand iPhone and began posting lifestyle photos to Instagram—skateboarding, streetscapes, and heavily filtered portraits of friends. Soon enough, Deas wanted to up his game. After seeing a video of daredevils free-climbing a Beijing skyscraper on YouTube, he figured out a way. “This is what I can do—this is how I can be original,” he thought to himself. Though he had little to no experience climbing much of anything, he was confident that skateboarding and “being fascinated with edges of buildings to do tricks on” had prepared him plenty. After posting a photo that featured his feet dangling high over Times Square, people began to notice him. Bloggers started writing about his work, clothing companies began to send him free stuff, and New York Magazine featured a similar image on its cover. Deas turns 18 this March and is attempting to transition out of the trespassing business. He’s selling prints on his website, setting up gallery shows, developing creative partnerships and gradually transitioning into a new form. “People see me as more than that risk-taker now,” he says. “I’m showing people that it’s not all about climbing.” Deas notes some of the fringe benefits of his transition, too. “It really sucks when you got to take the staircase up to the top floor.”