The City Whispers – Rome Graffiti

SONY DSCA gladiator on his way to work with a trolly bag, a Bratz doll posing on a pay phone, and pigtailed silhouette dropping a Swastika into a track can. Those are the images floating through my mind when I think of Rome in the August of 2009.

I was in the city to photograph a wedding, and spent the free mornings soaking in the street imagery, because once the sun rises high in the afternoon sky, the only think to do in Rome in August is relax in your air conditioned room at the Italian military hotel and enjoy a sweet fresh nectarine. All the locals have forsaken the heat of the city and you’ll only see small hordes of Asian tourists with a few pockets of Americans and other random travelers weaving through the streets, wondering why they decided to visit Rome in this unendurable heat. The nights however, are amazing.


The City Whispers – New York Graffiti

New York Graffiti-04654In April of 2013 I had the presence of mind to fly to New York. This wasn’t an accident, I met a wonderful person and flew out there to hangout. Fortunately we didn’t visit Times Square, and instead hung out around the hipster center of the world in areas like Bushwick and Williamsburg. Locations where the graffiti is fresh and the ideas pour off the walls like lyrics from an ancient Greek thespian to far gone on Cappuccino Bombs and espresso beans to do anything but watch amused as their fingers spray lovely detached madness across the walls.


The City Whispers – Paris Graffiti

Paris Graffiti - Street ArtAfter the Viking Startup bus drove into Paris and I pitched Amordomus on stage with the team at the Microsoft building, I took some time off to relax in the city and check out the street art and graffiti. The place to go is Rue Denoyez, I know this because I have an awesome friend who knows the Paris graffiti scene, otherwise I never would have seen this amazing street filled with all manner of shapes and colors. I also wouldn’t have attended the Wolf Song Night opening at La Galerie Ligne 13 or gone to the La Poste Museum Street Art exhibition. After the pressure cooker of building up a startup idea on a bus from Copenhagen to Paris, with a pitch competition in Cologne on the second day, my mind was overloaded and I was happy to relax and take in the non-linearity of the stenciles, sprays, and poster art on the walls. (more…)

The City Whispers – San Diego Graffiti

I’ve been to San Diego various times, mainly to speak about smart materials (active fiber composites) or to hangout around Pacific Beach. This time I wanted to see more of the downtown area and hunt some graffiti. Near the Padres stadium and the Gaslamp district, which is also in waking distance of the famous convention center, you are in what I call the consumption zone. If you’re not eating or shopping, you’re going to a place where you can eat or shop, or a homeless person on the street corner is asking for money. It’s a part of town designed for tourism and consumption, and everyone is selling something to you. There are a few works on the walls, but mainly it’s stickers on lamp posts. (more…)

The City Whispers – Los Angeles Graffiti

While visiting a friend to talk about designing energy efficient solar powered boats I took a few hours to check out the graffiti in Los Angeles near Little Tokyo. I started at Union Station and walked down Alameda street. Around 4th street (before and after) you start to find murals on the buildings and can safely stop to snap some photos with police sirens screaming in the background. Some photographers will hand their DSLR out the open window and speed by snapping random images, makes you feel like you’re walking through Detroit with the freaked out suburbanite tourists doing photo drive-bys. I felt fine walking around with a Ricoh GRD and GoPro in my hands while carrying my Macbook Pro on my shoulder and my Sony NEX VG-10 and Hasselblad lens in my backpack.


The City Whispers – Lisbon Graffiti

Now that I’m unemployed, I’ve had time to take a workacation and meet with the Lost In Reality team down in Lisbon, Portugal. We’re developing a mobile app for location-based storytelling, but I also took some time to relax and explore the whispers of Lisbon and the graffiti and street art a bit. The people and artists there have a lot to say with the financial crisis hitting Portugal and it’s well represented on the walls of the city. (more…)

The City Whispers – Cologne Graffiti

I headed to Cologne, Germany for the European Pirate Summit. It was an interesting event, filled with startup people from around the world, goth fire dancers, a mechanical fire breathing bull, more fire, robots, awesome ideas, and fantastic people. I took some days before the summit to walk around Cologne checking out the street art and graffiti. Why? Because that’s what I like to do. The museum is on the outside, always changing, and the entrance free is always free. Two days was too few to walk around Cologne, maybe I’ll head back there for the Cologne Startup Weekend. (more…)

The City Whispers – Geneva Graffiti

I was heading to a Strobist lighting workshop at Cern in Geneva back in 2009, and spent the day before the even walking around Geneva. Before walking through a Tamil Tiger protest outside the UN I wandered the streets looking for street art. Geneva has a high hip hop graffiti influence. The Zurich graffiti style is more akin to what you might see in Berlin, a bit harder while Geneva has a friendlier feeling of warmer climates. I think most of this stuff like the funky metro train are probably gone by now, the area was locked off when I shot there. I should head back there sometime, it’s been some time and street art hunting once in a city is like only climbing up a mountain once. It’s cool and all, but it’s the process of going back, rethinking thoughts you thought and feeling how the world around you has or has not changed as you have or have not changed. Maybe that’s why I like gong back to Berlin every year or so and making new photos of old graffiti I already shot years before. I’m heading to the European Pirate Summit in Cologne next weekend, and I’m looking forward to seeing the street art there for the first time, and photographing it. (more…)

The City Whispers – Berlin Graffiti

There’s nothing here but a small deluge of Berlin graffiti and street art from my last trip there in 2011 for the Google developer conference. The conference was pretty so-so, nothing new to learn just marketing and you need to use the Chrome store to earn money from you app so thankfully I had taken the rest of my time during that trip to shoot street art around the city. There’s a lot of stuff from Kreuzberg and some of the more popular spots, along with some of the off-the-path places like the old Barenquell brewery. There’s also a few shots from the Tacheles art gallery, which is always on the verge of being closed down so someone can put in a new hip cafe devoid of culture. Some of the stuff here was hardly dry when shot, some of it has been there for years and hopefully will stay up till the next time I go back to clear my head.

I’ve never really been to a museum in Berlin, except for rare gems like the DesignPanoptikum – Museum für skurrile Objekte which just the coolest little museum in almost all of the world. Instead I’m content to just walk the streets all day with eyes tuned to look for little shadows on the walls and looking up to make sure I catch giant astronauts or clown faces. I’ll usually take a tour, like one from Alternative Berlin which is just about the coolest tour company in Berlin. Anyways, enjoy.


The City Whispers – Zurich Graffiti

zurich_graffiti_i_smallGraffiti speaks across the walls and streets and later I see it all at once in my heads. All the hope and hate and colors and concrete are there in front of my eyes. Shadows on the streets, whispers in the heads. I walked around Zurich shooting graffiti the other day. The excursion was slightly cold and very cool. I walked towards the old Lowenbrau brewery, just beside the river. I’d seen the place thousand times from the train, but never took the time to explore it on foot. just like I’ve visited Zurich a thousand days and nights without ever really walking around with a camera. There’s always things to find, new things to inspire and learn from. I forget this sometimes, but love finding it again.

zurich_graffiti-5I love graffiti because you never know what you’ll find. On the wall of Lowenbrau is a poster of Obama’s Hope, staring off into the future. On the opposite side on a wall a sticker reads, “911 was an inside job.” Across the river from the brewery I see the Star of David and a Swastika sprayed next to a sidewalk leading up to some houses. There’s an equal sign between them. Social commentary on the action of the Nazi and Israeli governments perhaps? Who knows, it’s open to interpretation, some might say intimidation. The next week there’s a story in 20 Minutes about anti-Semitic leaflets being stuffed in mailboxes, someone said it was like the 1930’s. Hope and hate a few minutes walk from one another. In between a 911 conspiracy. Who knew the streets of Zurich were so crazy and political. Is it everywhere – waiting to be seen with the right eyes at the right time? Then there’s the socialists, the hammer and cycle are often found on buildings, usually not too far from an anti WEF image. Thoughts in time, what’s the reason? The abstract works are the best, no specific message, just shapes and colors, your mind doesn’t need to translate the universal language, just enjoy the views.


Zurich isn’t generally known for it’s street art. Berlin, Dresden, these are the cities which come to mind. There you find fantastic visions around every corner. In Zurich the streets are clean, the punks are few, and political demonstrations are anomalies, except for the 1st of May. But if you walk the streets and take a few turns you’ll find the voices on the walls. Images that were once in someone’s head and got translated to poems of the pavements.

The abstract comes out, the aliens faces, the eyes staring back at you and then looking across the city. The graffiti reminds me that Zurich is an inspiring place. Everything looks clean and orderly, but there’s also revolt inside the Stadt. There’s dissension, there’s hope, there’s inspired art. For some reason this fills my heart with joy. Sometimes I think that a city without graffiti doesn’t have a soul or just has nothing to say, or is under a social boot. I don’t think I’ve been in my any small mountain village in Switzerland and not seen at least a small sliver of street revolt on the door of a Kiosk or the side of a train. It’s not always in your face, shouting at you like a Coke advertisement, but the voices are there if you go listening for them.

zurich_graffiti-4Ah, but who is saying what, you wonder. Not everyone is talking to the walls with spray cans, you only hear the most determined voices. That’s fine, I’m not looking for SAMO’s ghost or Van Gogh’s ear lobe. There’s Andy Warhol in the Kunsthause and galleries around Zurich, but I love graffiti because the environment is always changing, and part of the art, the texture of the images changes with the lighting and the season. You never know if it”ll be there the next time you walk by. I think of fleeting moments in the time that can never be recreated or improved upon. Perfect.

zurich_graffiti-9Beware of cities which are too clean, without stickers on the lamp posts or writing on the walls. Beware of people who always clean off the walls with out hearing what they say. Not all graffiti is good, a lot of it sucks. I vomit every time I see nothing but tags. In Zurich most of the stuff around the train tracks is just kids writing their names in colorful ways, who cares. What I like is seeing a horse in scuba gear, alien faces below windows and giant lizards crawling up the sides of buildings. The coolest find by far was this piece of newspaper on the wall near Escher-Wyss-Platz. Basically it’s an astronaut painted on newspaper, with a map included. Pure imagination, priceless inspirations.