Mark Davis

From a fear of heights to climbing buildings for the perfect shot

by Mark Davis

Mark Davis

Mark above the clock tower, City Hall, Bradford

You need a head for heights to take the kind of photographs that Mark Davis takes. By ascending to the top of tall buildings in the North and elsewhere, he has created a stunning portfolio of terrific images that we reproduce here in Northern Life. Yet Mark reveals that to do this, he had to overcome a childhood fear of heights and falling.

As a child growing up in Bradford one of my childhood memories was a recurring and vivid frightening nightmare where I would be falling from a great height. It was always a blessed relief to wake up at the point of impact and realise it was just a messed up dream, yet the dreams were nearly as frightening as the thought of that hideous clown hiding in the airing cupboard that an uncle had cruelly teased me about. I think the falling nightmares started after falling off the neighbour’s garage roof despite my dad having told me multiple times that I would fall off. If only we listened to the voice of experience!

As I got older I had a moderate fear of heights especially when looking over the edge of cliffs when on holiday in Pembrokeshire which would make my head spin and send me dizzy. Even climbing a ladder to clear out the gutters took a certain amount of dogged determination to overcome the fear.

So you might justifiably wonder how I progressed from nightmares to hanging off the edge of buildings and cranes at great heights at all times of day and night all over the country. It’s simple really, to me the image is everything. I realised that fear is just a state of mind and any misgivings were simply minor glitches when it comes to my photography and what it means to me.

There is nothing quite like being on the top of a crane or high building at night as the world sleeps. The atmosphere is electric and often accompanied by the adrenalin rush of achievement as you see the pictures on the camera LCD screen as you take them. To stand surveying the bright lights of the night from a different perspective is quite humbling as you see the city stretch out in front of you, and then I become acutely aware of how lucky I am to be able to experience this.

For me I will never give up searching for those beautiful cityscapes regardless of what I perceive as sensible risk. People probably think I am mad/crazy but the reality is all the places I visit have been passed for health and safety and unless something beyond the restraints of those rules occur it’s just simply overcoming a basic human fear of heights.