"I've always loved heights. I've always been a climber," says Lisa A.M., a mother of two in her mid-30s who claims one of the more badass Instagram accounts in Cleveland. "If you ask my parents, they'll tell you I've been climbing since before I could walk. It's a lifelong obsession: Anything climbable, I'm up there."
If you follow her on Instagram (@amusemymuse), you'll see she's not lying. She climbs bridges and scales up to rooftops, showcasing views of Cleveland from spots few people know how to reach, posting pictures that'll give you serious vertigo and make you wonder how the hell she got up there. The answer, she'll tell you, is her years of yoga and ballet training: "It aids me in the climbing. A lot of the climbs require height, which I don't have, but I'm able to lift my leg all the way up to access things that you would normally need to be 6 feet tall to reach. "
She started the account nearly two years ago, building her following and connecting with users from around the world. Last fall, she went to Chicago and Detroit to hang out and shoot with people she met through Instagram. That's when her photography made a turn that would make any acrophobe cringe.
"The big thing in Chicago is rooftopping," she explains. "Everybody's chasing rooftops there. Coming home to Cleveland, I was like, 'Why isn't there anybody here doing this kind of stuff?'"
She soon scaled a lift bridge in Tremont with a friend and posted some pictures with the hashtag #Cleveland. That's how her current main climbing partner, a professional photographer who goes by @jasonunoriginal on Instagram, found her. "He asked, 'So, you wanna climb a bridge?' And we ended up climbing the Lorain-Carnegie, and I was just in awe."
Her climbing group expanded from there and so have their targets. "Since then, we've climbed most of the bridges along the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, and a whole bunch of other structures. My goal is to showcase the beauty of Cleveland and offer perspectives that most people don't see.
"Instagram has literally changed my life," she says. "It's weird to say that about an app on my phone, but it's connected me to so many people around the world. I was always into adventure and just living, and then I kind of lost that at some point along the way. But last year, meeting all those people in Detroit and getting out to explore abandoned buildings, and then meeting all those people in Chicago — it just kind of reminded me how much I love getting out, seeing what's out there. It's inspired me to get out here, to see what's here and dig deeper, finding the hidden side of Cleveland."
She keeps her climbing/photography life away from her professional life and uses the pseudonym "Lisa A.M." — the A.M derived from her Instagram handle "amusemymuse" — while her daily life is about as normal and professional as you could imagine.
"I tell people all the time I have this Superman/Clark Kent kind of thing going," she says.
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