Category Archives: Photo Essay

Naples, Italy

Grafitti in Naples

I spent an enjoyable few days in Naples, one of the more lawless places I’ve been. Unfortunately, the city is run by the Mafia instead of the cops, which doesn’t really make it much better, but it’s still fascinating. Once while we were walking, two cops told a man on a scooter that he couldn’t drive his scooter where he was. “I don’t care,” he said, and kept going.

I heard stories about how, if the police try to chase someone, the general populace throws debris or soapy water and the like into the street to prevent the police from their pursuit.

The city is absolutely the most cyberpunk place I’ve ever seen, and unfortunately these photos don’t capture that. The buildings are old and cracked from a decades-old earthquake and left with scaffolding to hold them together. Immigrant children play with LED lit mini-drones in the middle of medieval squares, and what would be pristine, tourist architecture and monuments are covered with graffiti and youth. People play football in the streets, ignoring passerby and plants grow wildly out the side of the walls of buildings. It’s fascinating.

I went on a tourist tour of the aqueduct beneath the city, and our tour guide was trying to explain to a typical american tourist that he thought that bank-robbery was awesome when no one got hurt, that catholicism was worse than useless, all kinds of fun things. Anyhow, while down there I saw people growing plants underground, fascist graffiti from WWII (hitler on the left, Mussolini on the right, “we will win” carved below, fortunately incorrect), strange artistic testimonials to the war, and the recreated conditions of the original aqueduct. I also saw the Mediterranean Sea for the first time.

Before we left the city we went to see sulphur fields in the suburbs, with boiling mud and constant steam, part of an active volcano and apparently where the Romans believed the entrance of hell to be situated. I’m fascinated by the idea of old ruins and strange things that are situated in the suburbs (like the sunken market that looks like a temple)… I heard from my friend in Sweden that he took public transit out to the pyramids in Egypt, because they are basically now in the suburbs of Cairo.

This following photo is of a statue of King Umberto I, killed by an anarchist. Nya nya.

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Fuck Yeah, Finland!

Dog in a field

I’m in Finland!

Finland is one of my favorite places. This is my third time here… I guess I come here every five years. Anyhow, the reason Finland is great is because Finnish has no gendered pronouns! For awhile I was advocating its use as the universal language, but I never got past cursing, ordering beer, and thanking people. Also, Finnish doesn’t have the word “please,” near as I can tell. Which is also somehow kind of cool.

Right, anyway, I went for a walk in the woods about five minutes from the house I’m staying at. I took pictures:

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Being A Tourist In Rome

Self at Colesseum

I couldn’t help but think that whole “when in Rome, do as Romans do” cliche the whole time I was in the car on the way to Rome. I, of course, didn’t know what it is that Romans do. I still don’t. So instead I guess I did what tourists do. I went around the center of the city, I went to the Colosseum and I went to the Forum. I thought about how the Goths sacked Rome and about how lovely it will be when the Goths get their shit together and sack the rest of civilization.

I took a lot of photos of the gladiator stuff, because its fascinating to me. It’s sort of the root of civilization: you take people, make them put on ridiculous costumes, and then make them kill each other. All the while the rest of the civilization cheers them on. It really gets right down to the root of it. I probably also took lots of photos of the various helmets and such because I’m a geek and grew up playing dungeons and dragons. There was also an old-school multitool on display, which is cool.

And there was the best human statue I’ve ever seen.

We also went to a squatted 19th century castle (it had a moat! it counts as a castle). Most of what I did in Rome, which was sit around a hacker conference, I didn’t take photos of.

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OMFG Venice

Venice at night

When I first showed up in Italy last week, my host asked me if I’d like to see venice. It wasn’t a stop on the tour, but it was only an hour or so from where I’d be staying. I pretended to be cool and collected and said “sure.”

I first really encountered Venice in Jeanette Winterson’s book The Passion, so all I knew about Venice is that it was terribly romantic and that you could huck dead bodies into the canals if you wanted.

But for sheer magic, in the aesthetics and design, I’ve never seen anywhere that compares to Venice. Maybe New Orleans or Amsterdam can fight it out for a distant second. Our directions included “take a left when you find a little boy holding a lizard.” (which turned out to be a sculpture, and it turned out to be a frog). I didn’t take a photo of it, but there’s a building so cursed, right on the water and next to a beautiful gigantic church, that even the local squatters won’t touch it. No one seems to own it, because everyone who ever does dies horribly. I tried to explain that squatters should be exempt cause they don’t own the places they live, but ah well.

My guide pointed out with equal glee the historical palaces and the nuances of the political graffiti. An architect, she explained how they construct buildings on a sinking lagoon.

After approximately twenty minutes I gave up on keeping my camera in my bag. I hate when I look like a tourist. But fuck it, I was. And it was beautiful.

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From The Depths in Mainz, Germany

From The Depths
Some period of time ago… fuck, time is weird when traveling. It’s one reason I love traveling. Right. A monday, perhaps a two weeks ago, I was in Mainz, Germany and From The Depths came to play. Beforehand, two of us did a presentation about anarchism in the usa, which was well-received. People seemed particularly interested in mountaintop removal coal mining and the resistance to it.

After the show, I got roped into playing foosball with the band and some of my hosts. It turns out that it’s bad form to spin the handles all willy-nilly. Probably as bad of form as it is to use the word willy-nilly.

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Photos – Reclaim the City demonstration in Mainz, Germany

Alright! I just figured out how to automatically post entire sets from my Flickr to this page. This should make posting photos less of a headache in the future. I step boldly into the 21st century and all of that.

These photos are of a Reclaim The City demonstration that was held here in Mainz, Germany this last weekend. There were thousands of revelers and protesters, three sound trucks playing all sorts of underground techno, drum and bass, punk, hip-hop, anything that can be danced to. We snaked through the city for hours, the crowd getting drunk and dancing, shouting along to anti-fascist music, listening to DJs who worked turntables in front of circle-A banners. The point of the demonstration was to declare that the city needs more autonomous spaces, social centers, etc. and less gentrification, and that they would take the city back for themselves if need be.

It’s an interesting contrast with Queens Day, which is similar drunken revelry in Amsterdam but with an entirely status quo outlook: celebrating the one day of freedom that the queen grants. Both are street parties, but I think that it’s important that Reclaim The City (or Streets) is one that we throw ourselves, by and for “the people,” not something given to us from up on high. Something that says that culture isn’t something that is handed down to us from the almighty radio, but is something that we create ourselves, that we participate in.

The photos trace our walk from the Wagenplatz down to the central station where the march started, then continued throughout the night.

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Photos – A Wagenplatz in Mainz

(click on pictures for larger versions)

I’ve spent most of the past two weeks or so at a Wagenplatz (link is to a google-translated German wikipedia article) in Mainz. A Wagenplatz, in short, is a squatted trailer part. They’ve got them all over germany, and the two I’ve stayed at thus far are really amazing places. (I’m waiting on permission to publish photos of a different one). This one is behind Haus Mainusch, a venue/socialcenter here.

People here chop firewood, play music, cook communal meals for the residents and at a vokü (people’s kitchen), and drive a tractor to move the wagons or pick up trash to re-purpose. Rent is almost nothing, and large decisions are communal but everyone seems to have a great deal of autonomy.

At looking at these photos, they seem to be mostly of one of my friends being domestic: picking salad from the garden, cleaning, and cooking. I also continue with my strange interest in photographing bathrooms: the red trailer with two doors is the toilet trailer. The photo after it, of the graffiti, is actually of the wall of the garage where shows happen, not of the bathroom wall.

In the panorama, note the awesome pirate fort in the center.

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Photos – Raumstation Rödelheim (well, its bathroom)

(click on pictures for much larger versions)

Last night I spoke in Frankfurt at a social center called Raumstation Rödelheim. It went rather well: the audience was engaged and knowledgeable, often adding information to my lecture. (In particular, I learned still more about the admirable punk-as-fuck post-colonial african anarchist fiction writer Dambudzo Marechera who spit in the face of government and the mainstream when they tried to accept him into their fold by giving him award after award and tried to bribe him into positions of power.)

I walked in the rain courtesy of a Janosch umbrella. Janosch is a german children’s book writer who is quite famous here. He’s also an anarchist. Anarchism is a weird secret world that runs parallel to the mainstream one, and it bubbles through quite often. Recently I was drinking tea with a non-radical friend of mine in Amsterdam. The cafe has posters for JM Coetzee, an anarchist fiction writer, up everywhere. And my friend was studying Noam Chomsky, the linguist and anarchist… she pulled his book out of her bag.

Anyhow, I seem to have a thing about photographing bathrooms of the places I go. I think a bathroom can tell you a lot about the character of a place. There’s one more very-wide-angle shot of the bathroom at Raumstation (which means “space station”) after the break.

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Photos – Wave Gotik Treffen 2010

This last weekend I was at the Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig. It was a fascinating experience. I’m so used to being around camera-shy punks that I honestly was overwhelmed and felt out of place in the runway atmosphere of the festival. But still, I shot some photos. I’ve also become a bit obsessed with photoshop’s “photomerge” capability to automatically make panoramas. So some of these pictures, if you click on them, will give you a much larger version.

Many of the pictures are from the Neo-Victorian picnic, which if you asked me needs a bunch of neo-victorian paupers and punks as well. Maybe next year. Other photos are of Leipzig itself. I found, for example, the perfect park: it has a river (or is it a giant canal?) and it has ruins of old columns, weeping willows, graffiti, empty wading pools, flowers… seriously, it has it all. I’ve only posted one picture of the place I stayed, but I’ll have more photos of that house and its awesome project posted up eventually.

The grainier photos are mostly of the house party I went to the final night, which is the kind of place that even the people who live there don’t seem certain if it’s squatted or not.

And finally, there’s a photo of my friend Courtney, who was one of the only black people in attendance. She was excited about finding a nazi to pose with her, so she could send the picture back to her mom. “Greetings from Germany!”

I’m under the impression that the nazi-looking folks are into it from a kink point of view, not actually as being fascists. But it’s hell of creepy.

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May Day! – Nijmegen

May Day is my favorite holiday. Actually, it’s kind of my only holiday. I celebrate christmas with my family, and my dad calls me on winter solstice to wish me a happy new year, but May Day is the one I really feel a connection to.

This year, I took a train to the city of Nijmegen in the east of Holland to attend an anarchist demonstration there. The Dutch haven’t had much of a May Day tradition in something like 50 years, so it was wonderful to be part of the largest such event in decades. Anyhow, the local anarchists had even gone ahead and gotten a permit for the event, since May Day is intended as a celebration, and they wanted the event to be as kid friendly as possible. But the police simply cannot be trusted to keep their truncheons to themselves.

It started of nice enough, with a bunch of speeches I couldn’t understand. The crowd was decently mixed: mostly younger punk/squatter anarchist types, but there were a fair number of older folks and children as well. We left the station and paraded about, with a few younger kids putting up stickers and some folks wheatpasting. We told the police they would not be allowed to enter the march itself. At one point, a cop started walking inside the crowd. He was confronted and then left. We stopped at a beautiful squatted building with a fantastic mural. Then we marched to another neighborhood that was going to be entirely demolished to make way for gentrification. All along, the police horses were skittish, and the police clearly had poor control over them.

We marched through a tunnel. Once again, the police tried to get into the march. We didn’t allow them. Some stencils, stickers, spraypaint, and wheatpaste went up. On the other side, a police horse knocked an unaffiliated woman off her bicycle and sent her to the hospital. Shortly thereafter, a police horse trampled a man right in front of me (who I was both unable to help or photograph, so much for that cliched dillemma). After this, they started attacking the crowd. It’s almost a joke: we always say “the police started it” and the media always says we do. But honestly, we rarely start in with the violence. Here, the police trampled someone, then started freaking out about losing control, so they began to attack with sticks and horses. People defended themselves, with flagpoles and bottles.

After awhile, things calmed down a bit, and the police started marching us around. I got out and watched as people were forced towards the police station. The police station, though, was right next to the train station, and the remaining crowd was put into the station and told to leave town. Regardless of where they lived.

But in the end, only three people were arrested, all of whom were let out later that night. Most people eventually left the train station and reconverged for dinner and conversation.

More about the whole thing (mostly in dutch, but with some video and photos) can be found on indymedia.nl.

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