9 Things That Happened to Me While Urban Exploring

17-Year-Old “Instagram Outlaw” Humza Deas has been making a name for himself above and below NYC. 

For 17-year-old photographer Humza Deas, New York City is the ultimate playground. A Manhattan native, Humza is part of a burgeoning subculture of “urban explorers” that make a living out of trespassing. Whether he’s dodging MTA employees, scaling buildings or balancing atop bridges, Humza will do whatever it takes to get the shot. We spoke to the fearless photog to hear some of the wildest (read: near death) moments he’s experienced while exploring the concrete jungle.

1. Close Call – “While showing an out-of-town acquaintance around NYC, we visited an abandoned train station and jumped down onto the tracks. (According to my research, no trains were supposed to run through that station.) Suddenly, we heard a screeching noise behind us. Immediately looking back, my friend jumped up onto the platform. I, on the other hand, stared at the train coming right at me like a deer in headlights. I was quickly grabbed by my friend on the platform and pulled up to safety. That was the start to a great friendship.”

2. Hide ‘n Seek – “While conducting research underground for a photoshoot, I saw MTA workers at the far end of the station. Being that I wasn’t supposed to be there, I knew I would get in trouble if I let them see me. I hid for almost half an hour before I finally got impatient and made a run for it…”

3. Panic –  “After bolting from construction workers underground, I forgot the right way out and accidentally lead my friends down a narrow tunnel with a train coming right at us. We turned back around, running as fast as we could towards a wider opening to hide from the train. While running, a friend fell very close to the 3rd rail. I thought he was a goner, but he got back up and kept on running.”

4. Po-Po – “One time, while visiting an abandoned rooftop, I lazily decided to take the elevator back down when suddenly we stopped on the 22nd floor. When the doors opened, two NYPD officers stood on the other side. Rather than cuffing me, he complimented my shirt and actually shared some laughs. I then realized they weren’t there for me and felt a huge sigh of relief.”

5. On Top of the World – “The first time I climbed to the top of a bride was thrilling – I had never been that high up before. I had so much adrenaline coursing through me that all of my images came out blurry as my hands were shaking.”

6. On Top of the World Part Deux – “The second time I climbed to the top of a bridge, I made sure my pictures came out clear. I laid prone atop the bridge while holding my camera. Unfortunately, the material on my button-up made me slip slowly off the side and – for some odd reason – I was determined to complete my 30 second exposure photo, so I held the camera still while trying to get a grip on the side of the bridge.”

7. Violent Graffiti – “I had an interesting run-in with some graffiti artists in Brooklyn once. We were on a set of abandoned tracks covered in graffiti when suddenly smoke bombs went off. I was sure I was going to get robbed or worse.” 

8. 5 Pointz – “My friends and I decided to explore inside the famous 5 Pointz building (also known to be the world’s premier ‘graffiti Mecca’). Though the outside is a colorful work of art, parts of the inside was covered in Nazi symbolism. Taken aback, my friend wasn’t paying attention to where he was walking and stepped on a nail, injuring himself. We decided it was time to go and  tried to escape via the roof. Needless to say, that was the wrong way out and it took us a while to make our way back down to safety.”

9. Look Out Below – “While exploring an old building, a friend fell through the flooring and landed in the basement which was flooded with water. Once I found out he was fine, I couldn’t help but laugh.”

Follow Humza Deas and his urban exploring adventures over on Instagram at @humzadeas