Cory Popphas made breathtaking videos of a breakdancing family on SEPTA and the Secret Life of Eastern State Penetentiary as part of his Uncover Philly project. Most recently, he turned his attention to a perspective that many of us rarely see: Philadelphia from above. He asked Brandywine Realty Trust if he could film from the top ofsome of their buildings. They said yes.
He ended up shooting from four locations, and using a drone to film City Hall, taking 40 timelapses made from 16,228 high resolution photographs. He’s currently planning another video with access to a dozen more buildings.
We’ve all hold the old joke about this being Filthadelphia, but your video turns that nickname on its head. The city looks so clean and glamorous. How did you do that?
All of my stories are centered around showing the hidden beauty in Philadelphia. There are lots of nay-sayers that say Philly is terrible, but most of the people that live here are proud of where they live and grew up. These videos are for people who have love and pride for Philly, and want to see these stories get the attention they deserve.
A lot of times when I’m up in a high building, I look down and all I see are HVAC units and puddles on black tar roofs. I hardly notice them in your video. Is that a function of how high up you are? It’s interesting that our visual perspective can change so much.
When I’m up on a rooftop, I’m mostly looking for interesting perspectives of the skyline, colors
You are known as a photographer and video creator who documents odd people, unusual places or little-known histories of well-known places. But this subject—buildings—are kind of ordinary. How did that change your approach?
You’re right, this subject is pretty ordinary, but I knew it wouldn’t be if I gave it a really interesting perspective, one that very few people are lucky to see.
There are plenty of people that have been to the top of one or two of these buildings. But it seems like you’ve been inside a big chunk of Philly’s biggest. Did the idea that you were in a rare position to document a view of the city few have ever seen cross your mind?
Absolutely, and that’s the biggest appeal of this story. Not only did I get access, but I was able to spend three-plus hours on the rooftops of these buildings. I was able to set up my tripods and cameras, and really take my time capturing what I thought were the most interesting shots from these buildings.