My First Street Art Experiment

BerlinStreetArtGraffiti and street art have been a small fascination of mine since I started touring cities in Europe. I generally prefer to seek out graffiti on the streets rather than jumping between restaurants and museums. In parallel, I began experimenting between portrait photography and painting (Gonzo Art), where I tried to combine the layering methods I use in Photoshop with the speedy and interactive way street art is created. On my last trip to Berlin I joined an Alternative Berlin Street Art Workshop to learn a bit more about creation techniques with my first stencil.

The day started with a little street tour near Alexander Platz, Ben (our excellent tour guide) walked us through a history of street art, the difference to that and graffiti, and the culture of groups like the 1up graffiti crew. Eventually we ended up on the far east side of Berlin, where one can still get affordable space in which to host a street art workshop, far away from the MUJI design store or Dunkin’ Donuts. The workshop was exactly what I needed, a basic intro to spraying and stencils, enough to make me dangerous. The process was straight-forward, much like many things are in life, once you understand the thinking behind it.


First, you need to cut out the stencil. We chose from a variety of images, from Pulp Fiction to Scarface and Woody Allen, and I settled on…a sexy nurse. The nurse was ideal, as she was near the top of the stack of possible choices and had nice basic lines, which were straight forward to cut out with the Exacto knife. If you choose an image with intricate lines (for example) you’ll spend hours trying to get the thing cut out. And as I found out, it’s much better to have larger features which using a paper stencil, because it will mask the spray paint much, much better than a stencil with very fine features.

Berlin 2014 Stencil Evolution-Paint

With my stencil cut out I moved on to the painting area. Our awesome workshop leader Ben showed us all the basics, and then we were free to experiment. We were supplied with a pre-cut canvas, about A4 in size to spray on. I like this medium a lot, similar to what I use when painting larger canvases using latex paints. I chose a bluish sort of colour pallet, and high-lighted the nurse’s cross in red. In the back of my mind there was some consistency with the geometric mask shapes I include in my Gonzo Art stuff. I documented the process in between each step, so you can see the evolution from basic canvas to finished piece. The stencil process is quite natural if you’re familiar with layers in Photoshop and basic masking techniques. If you don’t understand Photoshop, then I can recommend starting with a street art workshop to understand masking, and then the process with feel natural when you start using a Wacom tablet to mask and blend digital layers together.

My desire for the future is to use the stencil technique to transform some of my portrait photography into a type of street art print. This would entail starting with the digital image, then using Photoshop to separate different shadow, light, and colour regions, which would then be printed and cut out of a thicker plastic material for the stencil. Then I would use a large canvas, about one meter wide (or tall) and either the spray paint or the quick drying latex I like to work with to create the final art piece. This would give some rarity to the medium, something I was philosophising on with my Ignite Zurich talk, thinking how art exists in our digital internet age where everything is a copy of a copy of a copy.


Stolperstein – Location Stories

StolpersteinI usually end up in Berlin about once a year, either for a conference or to enjoy the street art and let my mind unwind. Berlin is a beautiful city, mainly because of the awesome people, partially because it’s in flux, partially because the history of the city is more prominent than most cities are brave enough to display. This instils a sense of reflection where ever I walk through the city.

It’s easy to walk around a city and not know the stories on the walls and the history of the people. You walk through Kreuzberg and you might not look down at the sidewalk, but if you do you might see small brass monuments set in the stones of the street beneath your feet.


These are called Stolperstein, ard are memorial markers dedicated to victims of the Holocaust Nazi oppression. Each Stolperstein has name and is a monument to the people sent off by the Nazi to camps, or sterilized, or were deported and murdered. I photograph them whenever I see them because it makes me remember. Our history is so easily forgotten. If you have kids and they have kids, then probably you will be remembered until your grandchildren die. That’s as much recognition that history usually gives a person. Things are changing in the internet age, but virtual worlds do not replace the tangibility of the world around us.

We build monuments because they last longer than paper and are placed in the open for everyone to see and visit with their thoughts. They communicate simple messages, like a name, date of birth, and if a person was murdered in Auschwitz or exiled in Shanghai. We walk by buildings where beautiful and horrible things have happened each day and usually don’t have any idea. This was one reason why I started the Lost In Reality project, so that part of the history of our world would be remembered in stories tied to places. Tweets and Facebook updates are forgotten five seconds after you read them. I wanted to enable longer conversations between people and the places they walk through. I think it’s good to have lofty goals, because when you understand the history of your environment and all the stories hidden all around you, then you understand better your context in life.

The Stolperstein are reminders to what happened in the past, and for me a warning to what happens in the present in other countries, and what could happen in the future. People like you and me pulled from our homes and sent off to be murdered. When I see them I read the names in my head and wonder what they looked like, what their voices sounded like and what it felt like when they were taken away, stripped of the freedom I take for granted walking down the same street. For me they are a reminder that life is precious, that we should enjoy the moments that we have, and we should stand up when those around us are victimized. If a place doesn’t move your emotions, what was the point of traveling there.

To learn more about Stolperstein, visit the Wiki Page.

“While the vast majority of stolpersteine commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust, others have been placed for Sinti and Romani people (also called gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, black people, Christians (both Protestants and Catholics) opposed to the Nazis, members of the Communist Party and the Resistance, military deserters, and the physically and mentally disabled.

The list of places that have stolpersteine now extends to several countries and hundreds of cities and towns.”


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.


Video Poetry Berlin-Zurich Rough Cut

 The first rough cut from my video poetry collaboration with DJ Cue is up. The music was composed by DJ Cue (Bobby Cuevas) while I provided the visuals and recorded ambient audio. This was made possible thanks to and their Creative Invite collaboration platform. This is a rough cut, so it doesn’t include the poetry dialogue that I will eventually add (actually, I’m looking for a woman with a nice classic German accent to do some voice recording), but it’s a nice visual representation of what I’m trying to create. Video imagery includes the abandoned Bärenquell Brauerei in East Berlin, Barbara running through Zurich Bahnhofstrasse (shoot organized with Ethan Oelman), and also a quick look from a underground club night in Berlin, part of an Alternative Berlin night tour I did in the city. Thanks to everyone involved, now that I’ve setup my computers in my new apartment I can get back to shooting and creating on a more normal basis. Enjoy…

Berlin Notes: Bärenquell Brauerei Urbex

Back from Berlin, recovered from the flu, dreaming and scheming of something new, new, new.The But first, I worked on some images from the Bärenquell Brauerei, an abandoned brewery in former East Berlin. I found out about the place from Abandoned Berlin, a blog devoted to urbex in this fabulous European city. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the place is like an urbex mecca, fabulous graffiti, old but not so old that it has fallen apart. I had a wonderful time there running around with my Cinevate Atlat FLT slider shooting video with my VG10 for the video poetry project with Bobby Cuevas.













Video Poetry Pre-Production

The video poetry project is in full pre-production chaos, perfect time to give an update on the process. I’ve been pulling ideas from the back reaches of my brain, shooting video, writing poetry, and listening to music from DJCue, all in an effort to build up the video poetry project. Here’s a breakdown of the pre-production journey so far, but first a recap. In July DJCue won the video poetry CreativeInvite contest on Talenthouse, where people submitted music and I picked one to work with. The goal of our collaboration is to create some original short films using his music and my video. How it has come together so far…

The Theme

The theme is as abstract as ever, and I want to pull together the main components together and produce some magic (I know, that sounds like a load of abstract bullshit). This allows me to start from a few different directions. For example, write a poem and try to storyboard a film from it, shoot random film footage and cut it to music and then add poetry, any variation of the two and everything in between. The reason I’m making this seem so chaotic is that I’m still experimenting with the video poetry work flow, and as it is when I stare down a blank canvas, I’m a little freaked out it will all suck in the end. I see video poetry as a format in between the Art Film and the Short Film.

In an art film you try to communicate some abstract concept without dialogue, and the result generally loops on a monitor in a gallery or installation somewhere (that you need to watch looping for two hours before you get a sense that you might perhaps – sort of, will eventually figure out what the fuck it is about). In contrast, the short film communicates a story in a compact timeline, but is more likely to include traditional elements like a script, shot list, planning, etc. What I want to do here is to have a combination of the two, communicate an abstract concept as you might find in my mind and the traditional film workflow (as I learned it from Vincent LaForet on CreativeLive). This is more inline with how I create images in Photoshop or painting, where I begin with a base image or idea and then build around and layer it, the result being something I didn’t necessarily plan for from the beginning. The elements we have to mix and layer are music (from DJCue), poetry, and video.


The beauty of the video project is that DJCue handles the music production and I focus only the on video and poetry. Spinning in his bedroom/studio he mixes up productions for SoundCloud, Restorm and any manner of use in life in between. This adds a certain dynamic to the workflow, I don’t know exactly what he has in mind, he just creates stuff and sends it over, this challenges me to create poetry and video mixes which build on and complement his music. Check out his stuff on SoundCloud, Twitter (@therealdjcue), Talenthouse, and his blog.


This is probably the most difficult part (aside from finalizing the final edit of the film). I hear music in my head, remixes of stuff from my past and I get inspiration to put words together, ending up in what you might call poetry or spoken word. But the words sometimes have a tempo of their own, and don’t always mix so well with music when I try to put them together later on. Visual imagery also has it’s own tempo, and if you start by just shooting from a story board, chances are you won’t end up with the right mix between the music and the words, I guess this is the conundrum from whence the profession of film editor arose from. My feeling is that it’s best to start with the visual arrangement in flexible blocks (let’s call them mini scenes) and then add the audio in the studio after adding in the soundtrack.


For video, we need tools. Tools include, my Sony NEX VG10 camera, audio via a Zoom H4, various lenses, and a Jag35 Field runner rig. Now that I have some ideas in my mind for other shots I realize I need a slider, or linear motion control device (to move the camera on a set of rails). I picked up an Atlas FLT, which will be needed when I head to Berlin.

Location Berlin

I like the concept of the urban landscape, and now that video is part of the equation, it makes sense to put together some footage in one of my favorite cities, Berlin – where I’ve much writing you could call poetry. I haven’t been there since 2010 when I visited the UXcamp. The idea this time is to go back for the Google Developer day and take a few days to shoot around the city with my VG10 and an Atlas FLT slider. Where? There are a number of options. My first goal is heading back to Beelitz, an abandoned hospital complex south of the city. Goal two, the Teufel-berg in the former West sector. Goal three…there’s too many goals to list in a place like Berlin.

I shot for a day in Beelitz in 2010, and fell in love with the place like most people do when they visit. The hospital was established in the late 1800’s and was taken over by the Russians after Berlin was taken in 1945. If you venture through the corridors you’ll still find Russian articles all over the place. It’s probably the most popular urbex location in Germany, on par with the Packard plant in Detroit, Michigan. Unlike the Packard plant, parts of Beelitz are being renovated, meaning parts are no longer accessible. However, the main surgery building was still open in 2010, and I want to get back there and shoot before it’s gone. The inside of the buildings are covered with grafitti, and all manner of creepy writings that will freak you out when the wind slams a door closed as you walk the corridors alone. Rumor has it however, well, not rumor but more fact, that some one died in Beelitz while exploring the ruins around 2010, and now the place is guarded, also to avoid further vandalism from hooligans haunting the forest.

The Teufelsberg translates directly as Devil Mountain. After the war Berlin needed to be rebuilt, and all of the trash, broken buildings and such were piled on top of one another and eventually the Teufelberg was formed. During the Cold War the NSA built a monitoring station there to snoop on the East, and the building with funky octadome radio installation is still standing. It’s unclear how open it will be here, but internet recon suggests it should be accessible, I may however defer to other places if it doesn’t work out.

Location Zurich

It’s always good to team up with other creative folks on projects, and my main collaborator in Zurich is the photographer Ethan Oelman. We do projects together where he focused on photography and I focus on video, and then I mix the two together in a short video, our last finished collaboration was the video Dancing with Water. Lately we met up in downtown Zurich with a Med-student-model he works with. I took footage of her before the sun went down, and then I assisted Ethan as a light man, walking around with a softbox on a boom while he did the shooting.

Animation Experimentation

Many times when I’m shooting still images I have a short movie playing in my head. The Bratz image series in particular is something I always wanted to animate, to have the scene include some elements of interaction. Now that I’m picked up Photoshop CS5 this is a realistic project. How it will fit into the poetry concept I’m still debating in my heads, but the potential is there to create some active elements that work into the shot video of the project. I started out with a simple Toy Wars image with some plastic Army Men and Cleo de Nile from Monster Highschool. Using the Puppet Warp tool in Photoshop I did some masking and warping to create a few animation frames of the American flag waving in the wind. Then I’ll scale that up to animating the sergeant and background elements (still to be imagined).

Bringing it All Together

So, that’s the plan. Shots form Zurich and Berlin, likely mixed up with strange animations of Bratz dolls and and Army Men battling in a new world apocalypse landscape.

UXCamp 2010 – Bad Blogger Back in Berlin

Why am I here? In the overall-until-I-die life sense it’s obvious – to fuck and reproduce. All these fools looking for a deeper meaning in life are wasting their time. You’re just here to reproduce and/or help increase the world population at a rate greater than those souls who are dying. Why complicate your head when the answer is simple, straight forward, and dialed into your DNA sex-drive/maternal/paternal instincts?

Oh, why am I in Berlin? Also an easy question to answer. I’m back in Berlin for the 2010 UXCamp Europe. It’s the premier gathering of UX/UI people in Europe, a venerable nexus of smart minded brains focused on developing user experiences in software and applications. In the past half year I’ve gotten interested in designing user interfaces and user experience strategies, partially because I want to develop Revolt from the Singles Table into an iPhone/Android app, partially cause I just find it interesting how humans interact with technology. I want to talk about the UX of books at the UXCamp. Books…you know, the things we read, with the words printed on paper that open up and can be put on shelves or burned? Books…those things that we are now reading on electronic devices like ebook readers or maybe an ipod, iphone, ipad, Android phone, or whatever. But my question is why?

What are the essential elements of the printed book user experience, which should be transfered to the ebook concept? This all started when I finished my first short story/micro novel titled Revolt from the Singles Table. I was thinking up spoken-word viral video marketing ideas for the book and then I was like, but what exactly am I selling? A printed book? An idea? I’m selling the book, which is just a container for ideas. Some books are turned into moving pictures, then the movie is the container for the idea. How does this all fit together when we design a mobile application, turn the printed book into a program which immerses the user/reader with pictures and sounds and words, which together better communicate the ideas contained within the book than a printed medium would be able to communicate.

Maybe I’m not really qualified to talk about this at this premier nexus for UX/UI people of the world – but one time I tried to climb a 6000m peak in Bolivia. Hyuana Potosi is billed as one of the easiest 6000m peaks in the world. However, it was my third attempt to climb a mountain and only the second time in my life that I’d been above 4000m. At the time I was living in flat-land Michigan and had little first-hand mountaineering experience. Now I live in Switzerland split my time between climbing/ski touring/mountaineering. In Bolivia I got up to about 5000m and told the guide I was finished. So why not put myself out there again and try to do something I’m not really qualified for?

I figure that, since I’ve written a book, read ebooks on my ipod and now want to market and sell Revolt from the Singles Table in printed and electronic forms, I can at least lead a discussion on the subject.

A Bad Blogger Back from Berlin

BarCamp Berlin 3 was, as can be best described in the popular vernacular of an MTV generation, “Off the Fucking Hook.” It was a barcamp by which future barcamps will be measured, it will always exist as a whisper in the internet night, lingering in the back of blogger minds until the apocalypse. As an American living in Zurich who happens to know a few people from the city, my view is that if you’re attending a cool party around Zurich, it’s probably being hosted by someone from Berlin. Expectations were high as I landed at Tegel Flughafen, and they were fulfilled in every tech geekiness sense.

The point of a barcamp is the free exchange of ideas. These ideas are mainly directed towards the internet technology sector, but all are welcome. So what were the great ideas that I was exposed to at BarCampBerlin 3.0? Some highlights from my view include ZooTool, presented by Hartmut Wöhlbier from Mannheim, it’s an interactive tool to replace bookmarking in the internet. I’ve started using ZooTool, but find it more useful for images, as it scans a page to see what content can be saved, and so far I’ve found it less useful for saving articles or text.  Alex Kawas received the most enthusiastic applause of the weekend for his talk about optimizing your sleep to improve your productivity. I asked him why when I have a few beers, my next day is extremely productive, but he admited that he did know. I respect this type of answer, becuase it’s far more useful than when a person starts bullshitting an answer to cover the fact that they dont’ know.

Of course, as a photography-centric blogger, I was highly attuned to the imagery topics. For a while I’ve been looking for a way to produce custom messenger bags with original artwork, and by the grace of the divine spirt a German company is doing exactly that. CROW’n’CROW GmbH allows you to create and eventually market your custom bag designs on their site.  This is similar to something like CafePress, but the quality of their bags is superior to anything I’ve seen so far, and I plan on getting a few bags from them. Currently their site is in German, which is great for me but so far they’re only targeting the German and European markets, watch them for eventual expansion to the States.  I talked briefly with their reps, and Steve said large orders to the US might be possible, contact them for details. On the photography front, Ole Begemann gave a demonstration on using Strobist inspired small-flash photography techniques. Ole is one of those new-breed digital photographers, who produces fantastic imagery despite not having a degree from the Brooks Institute. His Flickr stream has inpiring images from Berlin to Bolivia, and and many areas inbetween. Ole took me on a photo-tour of Berlin before the barcamp and now I’m highly motivated to go back to Berlin to shoot at the locations we scoped out.

Bar Camp Berlin 3 was really a well-organized event.  The only problem was in the acoustics of the event.  The sessions were held in an open hall with dividers for to create small rooms, but the sound went up and reflected off the ceiling, making it hard to hear what was being presented. A minor thing. All in all Bar Camp Berlin rocked, and I couldn’t thank the organizers and sponsors enough. The event was held in the Hauptstadtrepräsentanz of the Deutsche Telekom. Every time I head to a barcamp I give a talk, and my talk at BarCamp Berlin 3.0 was on Sunday morning, centered on the use of visual imagery for blogs and the internet. This was an interesting experience, because I didn’t find anytime to sleep between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Although I was coherent, I somehow didn’t push the right button on my Zoom H4, and therefore the audio of the session was not saved for posterity.

The real fun was later on Sunday afternoon when the city began to take on an unrealistic feel, and I felt like I was walking through a Pink Floyd video. I’m sure that Alex Kawas would have recommended sleeping at some point, but I had no desire to. The true value of a BarCamp is inspiration, and I got a lot of that in Berlin. I spend four days in Berlin, the first two were spent on photography and writing, going nowhere and doing nothing. I had my Zoom H4 with me and recorded sounds of Berlin, and plan to do some visual poetry combining the visual images and Berlin sounds. Hunter S. Thompson used to say that the weird never die, but I think we just like waiting until we have a reason to. He found his time, but I’m still waiting for mine.

Bad Bloggers go to Berlin

Good bloggers go to San Fransico, Bad bloggers go to BarCamp Berlin 3.  At least, I’m hoping that’s what will be written on the BarCamp Berlin 3 T-shirts.  BarCamp Berlin 3.0 is setting up to be the coolest blogging event of 2008, and probably one the best held so far in the history of the BarCamp.  Paris has flair, Zurich beauty, and Detroit has true grit.  But Berlin is one of those unique cities with an excellent mix of history, tech, art, design, and badassness.  In Berlin the people are hip, beer is plentiful, and the clubs get hotter as the night turns into morning.  It’s also easily one of my favorite places for photography in the world.  Berlin is a city in flux, it has a flow, and between new buildings filled with new ideas the old walls give the determined poet inspiration.  I could easily spend a month there, but this is the wrong attitude.  If you spend a month anywhere you run the risk of getting comfortable.  Better to enter and leave the environment as harshly as possible, keep the mind alert and the senses hightened, otherwise you’ll miss what you came for.  It’s all the more interesting when you have to push youself for a few days with little rest.

First, the main deal: there are something like 650 participants from Germany and around the world attending BarCamp Berlin 3 (Oct. 18th and 19th), and it kicks off a Web 2.0 week in Germany.  Two big parties are happening on Friday and Saturday night, with the camp festivities starting Saturday and ending on Sunday. Sponsored by a number of tech companies, including Oracle and Nokia…I’m incredibly geeked about attending.  Of course, to get in, you have to be on the list.

Getting on the list wasn’t easy, the day registration opened I followed the link in my email only to get denied on the spot, because it seems like the available spots were filled up in a near simutaneous flurry of internet mouse clicks.  Fortunately for me, the cool folks at BarCamp Belin had reserved space specifically for international guests.  Since I come from the US and live in Zurich, I seemd to qualify.  This naturally brings up what I would do at BarCamp.  The concept, as with every barcamp is no spectators, you give a talk, volunteer or blog about the blogcamp.  I’m always in the presentor category.  Not because I know what I’m talking about, but some days you like to hear yourself speak, and preparing a talk means you have to have a grasp of the content.  This isn’t like attending a scientific conference where only two people out of twenty will be able to understand the words flowing out of your mouth.  At a BarCamp you want to communicate ideas for the pure sake of spreading knowledge and inspiring people.  My last apperance was at BlogCampSwitzerland3.0, where I rambled on about integrating Flickr and blog content.  As a speaker, I always come out of the process with a deeper understanding of the material and of myself.  Additionally, speaking reaffirms how much I don’t know about the world.  I like to think I offer a unique perspecitve, trained as a research engineer I blog about cameras, photoshop, creativity, phtography and produce imagery for Flickr.  My main interests for BarCamp Berlin are delving into the production process of visual imageray for blogs, and distributing that content in diffenet ways on the web.  My video production skills are improving, and I’ll post my talk in two or three videos after the show.

Now the only question is what to pack?  I’ll take three cameras to Berlin, burn through as much Velvia film as possible in 35mm and 645 formats and try to capture the feeling of the adventure.  Street sounds and poetry will be handled with my Zoom H4 digital audio recorder.  My short list of cameras includes the Ricoh GRD, Contax G1, and Fuji GA645 (wi) cameras.  The Contax G1 might not make sense to some people – who still shoots 35mm in a digital world?  Well, here’s a better question, how can one spend time photographing in place like Berlin and not do it with Carl Zeiss lenses?

BarCamp Berlin 3