Interview: Public Enemy Melbourne

They’re making news for getting into places where they’re not meant to be. We ask them how they feel about their newfound fame – and how they pulled it all off.

Words Photography by Allthingsmelb

Public Enemy are a loosely affiliated network of photographers and videographers who share a passion for getting into spots other people haven’t been. From the depths of Melbourne’s City Loop to the towering heights of the Prima Pearl Tower, these guys have been there and documented it. The Public Enemy video, an 11-minute cut of Melbourne’s highs and lows, was released two nights ago and has amassed over 15,000 views since. Given the current scrutiny on risk-takers on Melbourne’s public transport due to some recent tragic events, it’s only a matter of time before this film is a centre of a media hysteria. I got in contact with Public Enemy’s @Allthingsmelb to set the record straight.

Can you tell me a little bit about the project?

It started late last year. We all started taking photos of exploration three quarters of the way through last year. We started to associate with one another and eventually one of the boys, @Modernwitness, came up with the idea to do a joint Melbourne project with all the boys that we’d been hanging out with.

So how many people were involved?

When it started it was separate groups – it was me, @Scarball, @1XU, @Hogss_ and there would’ve been like @RDXV, @Modernwitness and those guys. Then we all came together and now we’ve formed a group of probably about 12, 13 guys.

Did you all come together through Instagram? Did you know each other before?

Yeah, that’s how I started talking to @Scarball and those guys, then we all started to become friends.

So how long have you been working on the project?

Well, we started to get serious probably January this year. Like we started to do the City Loop and really started to get some nice footage going. January was probably the first time I’d met @RDXV. We started doing City Loop and doing these bigger buildings, before this the highest buildings I’d probably done was 20 storeys or something like that, but then we started getting spots like 60 storeys up.

What kind of gear are you using?

Well, the main guys that you’d see from the footage were @RDXV and @Modernwitness. @Modernwitness uses a 6D Canon and I’m not 100 percent sure what @RDXV uses.

How’s the response been?

Pretty good – some people are criticising it. 90 percent of the responses has been really good. I think the main thing is people are really blown away with the editing, to be honest.

It’s a good looking piece of documentation. The production level seems quite high for something that was obviously shot on the fly.

Yeah, considering it’s all done by a bunch of kids, really. A lot of the graff movies, the editing is reasonably good but this is by far the best editing I’ve seen in an underground movie.

When you see a lot of that kind of footage it’s normally connected to the graff scene. What made made you want to do this project that is more about the access than the action?

I don’t know, I guess the good thing about the spots we’ve done it that most people haven’t been there. Like not many people have seen views from the Crown Tower construction site, not many people have seen views from the Langham Hotel and other bigger buildings that we’ve explored. Like not many people have been like “Oh, lets go look up there, lets look at the view, take some photos up there.” I guess it gives everyone a chance to see Melbourne from a different perspective.

Do you feel a connection with the city? Do you feel like you’re showing a different side of Melbourne that most people don’t see?

Definitely. I think a lot of the boys, they’re out there to do something different and showcase a different side of Melbourne that is pretty beautiful and not many people get to see.

The footage was pretty crazy. So what was the most high stake mission that you guys filmed? Which one was the hardest to pull off?

They all had their own challenges, I guess. Like with the City Loop, there’s different measures that they put in place to make sure that people don’t get in there. Once you work out what they are then they’re not too hard to get around. Like the first time we went, it was pretty tricky but once you get used to it, it’s not really that bad.

What kind of measures do they put in place?

Oh, surveillance and stuff like that, and people monitoring it to make sure people aren’t in there. For buildings, some buildings have locks on their roofs so you can’t get up there. Also there’s keys to the elevator. Sometimes we have to wait ages for people to buzz us up. We’ll wait till a resident comes in and just ride up in the elevator with them and take it to the top floor.

The final scenes at Flinders Street are pretty crazy. How did that happen?

We had all talked about it for ages, like we all wanted to do it. I wasn’t actually there, but I’m good mates with the guys who did it, who’s also a part of the group. Actually, I’d probably have to to say this one was the hardest. They scoped it out. It took them quite a while to work out how to get up there. They tried to do it – one guy couldn’t pull off the last part because it was quite a hard bit to get up onto and one guy ended up doing it and kind of making history I guess, because, well, I haven’t seen anyone take photos from on top of there.

Do you think there’s a natural instinct to want to go to places that people tell you that you’re not supposed to?

Yeah, I guess there’s always this kind of thrill. Like “Oh yeah, you’re not meant to be doing this,” and “That’s bad.” The fact that there’s the sort of bonus that because it’s so discouraged, that no one has really tried it. I guess that’s what makes it so unique.

This stuff is very much in the media at the moment. Are you expecting a backlash? I heard you guys were already on ABC News.

Well, all I’ve really seen is ABC News and I think that’s pretty much bullshit, that article. Saying that we’re all graffiti vandals and stuff like that when the video doesn’t feature anything to do with graffiti at all. [Editor's note: Since this interview yesterday, the story has gone global and been featured on a variety of news sites]

Do you have a message for the mainstream media. Is there anything you’d like to clarify?

Not really. I just don’t get why they all got out and accuse us of being graffiti vandals when none of this is about that at all. It’s all about photography. None of these spots that have been explored to do graffiti or anything like that. It’s all just for photography purposes and we’re not hurting anyone.

Are you guys working on any other projects? Have you got anything coming up in the future?

Maybe, maybe. There’s been talk of a possible Australia-wide thing, featuring Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne but that’s still in its initial stages.

2 comments on “Interview: Public Enemy Melbourne

  1. Doug on said:

    These guys are just doing stuff that people have been doing for years, however these guys are being selfish & their grab for fame is going to make it hard for a lot of longterm explorers.

    • mike on said:

      I agree, 10 years ago we were running this drill every weekend around Melbourne, it was fun but we never felt we needed to promote it.

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