Name: David Biene
Location: Berlin/ GER
Job: Photographer, Artist & Maker
First approach with Photography.
My mother’s father was and my father is very much into taking photos. Myself I started to take photos when about 12 years old. At the age of 14 my father and I built a darkroom in the basement where I developed films and printed photos on multigrade paper.
Later, when my plan to learn to be a sculpturist and to study free arts failed, I decided to learn photography the proper way and studied it for 3 years at the renown Lette Verein. I was lucky to be the last class that learned both black and white and color printing in the dark room. Baryt papers and color papers were fascinating me.
Before and during the school I worked in TV and cinema productions and worked as a photo assistant. I already started to do own jobs, too.
Nikon was my first professional camera after a Praktika I had for many years. My favorite camera since the first moment I held it as a assistant in 1999 is the Hasselblad 6×6 camera system.
By now I have 5 different bodies and multiple lenses. I used to work only analogue in the beginning shooting band und artist portraits for magazines before assignments forced me to concentrate on digital.
In digital I work with Canon and I really do adore the lenses with the apertures of 1.2 to 1.8. But I have to admit that my heart still is with analogue photography.
Black and White or Colors, or Both?
Both. There is motives and situations for both though I adore grainy black and white shots with hard contrasts.
Portraits, which particular feature attracts you in people?
I like shooting portraits a lot. The best is when you have the chance to get a glimpse of the authentic character of the person you shoot and not only the facade .
A little moment of truth or a special expression that was there only for a micro moment.
I also love to shoot reportage and documentary. I think both, for reportage work as well as portrait work, it’s the optimum if a photo is able to tell something like a little story.
A person you’d like to photograph.
Well, there’s a lot out there. Interesting people with stories to tell and faces that tell their own story.
The Moto culture, why is it so inspiring for your work?
Myself I’ve always been into youth cultures and stuff like that. Motorcycle culture, especially chopper culture is a niche that fascinates me since my teen days.
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Are you a biker? What do you Ride?
Yes. I always wanted an old Harley or Triumph or BSA. Or an Indian Chief. But I never could afford any of those.
A Suzuki GS400 was my first bike that I mildly modified and rode a lot.
I had a Yamaha SR500 and two Pannonia TLB, a hungarian motorcycle from ’56.
At some point there was the great chance to get a Triumph Bonneville Custom that I totally fell for. A friend built it und offered it to me as he knew how much I would love to have it. He built it to be raced on the 1/8 mile. It’s an unit engine with 650 ccm in a rigid frame. I have it for about 6 years now and I still love it as much as I did the very first day.
I changed it quite a bit so it’s a proper Triumph chopper now. It’s my daily ride in Berlin and I also do trips with it. The longest so far was about 700km per day.
“Hopped- Up”, more about the book.
Hopped-Up is the name of my first book. It is a photography book with texts and interviews about the european culture of Hot Rodding. A book not so much about cars but about the people all over Europe who live the culture of the US-american 1940-60s. Building cars, racing them, making music and so on. I started to shoot for it in 2001 and then pretty much concentrated for over 5 years all over Europe. As I do with most of my free works it is photographed completely analog on film, most of it black and white.
Nothing was staged and nothing was modified afterwards. I wanted it the purest and most authentic possible.
The 240 pages hardcover book was released with a small publisher in 2009 and was sold out within 3,5 months. There were several exhibitions in galleries up to today. The biggest was the one in Proud Gallery in London but there several in Berlin, Munich, Düsseldorf and Eindhoven. There will be more shows in the future for example 2019 in the Rock&Pop Museum in Gronau after their rebuilding. Also I’m still looking for a publisher to re-release it one day.
What it means to document a motorcycle event, like “Wheels & Waves” or the ” The Elefantentreffen” and others? Tell me some details of your experiences.
When I was at the Wheels and Waves 3 and 4 years ago I was there more as a bikerider and not so much as a photographer. I only shot views along my way and enjoyed being in one of my favorite sites of Europe with a couple of friends.
Visiting the Elefantentreffen was a different approach. I wanted to go there to shoot a reportage about this kind of survival motorcycle meet in the middle of the snowy bavarian mountains in january. It was quite a experience and good fun. It’s definitely a world on it’s own with people coming on their bikes from all over Europe and beyond. I can really recommend going there. The story was published in the Australian bike magazine Tank Moto.
Another important element in your life is music, right?
Yes, I’ve always been into music a lot. The first years of working as a photographer I worked for music magazines a lot and shot portraits of artists like Lemmy Kilmister, Queens of the Stone Age, Social Distortion and many more. Also I used to dj in bars and clubs in Berlin for some years.
While soul, rhythm’n blues, blues on the one hand and hardcore and punk on the other are my main genres I like a lot of interesting stuff from hiphop to electro too. I like to have the right music for all moods and situations.
“OFFstage” a short description of the project.
My recent work series OFFstage derives from my love for music, especially live music. I started it 2005 and worked on it until 2016. It’s a series of portraits of bands and musicians of many genres shot right after the show. I’m literally the first person the artist meets when he or she comes off stage. It’s about passion and energy and about authenticity. Also this work I shot completely analogue on film but this time with my favorite camera, the Hasselblad 6×6.
The series was exhibited in two galleries in Berlin so far. I’m doing research now for galleries in other cities to show it. For both works I appreciate recommendations from locals.
What are you working on?
Well; I’m always working on a lot of different stuff at the same time. For some people it’s hard to understand because they think you have to decide for one thing. Well, I can’t and I don’t feel like. There’s to many ideas.
Such was for example the exhibition „The Rollin Eyes Show“ which I organized and showed at the Pure & Crafted music and motorcycle festival in Berlin last year. It presented motorcycle culture photographs by 10 photographers from around the world like for example Laurent Nivalle, Scott Pommier or Lanakila.
My other main concern aside of all photography work is the company Leevenstein I run with two friends. We manufacture high quality leather accessories completely by hand.
But recently I also got more into doing events. With a friend we organize Berlin’s charity motorcycle run The Hill Ride Berlin every 3-4 months collecting money for a good cause while having fun riding and enjoying the countryside around Berlin.
The monthly motorcycle event at Bassy is back: THE MOTOCYCLE POWWOW! Be there on august 8th to chat and have fun, enjoy the selection of Berlin’s bikes and listen to Lady Nico on the vinyls and live on stage Roland Heinrich & die Rumtreiber. Check in the FB Event: http://bit.ly/themcpw _______________________________________________________ #motorcyclemeet #themotocyclepowwow #motorrad #motocyclepowwow #berlin #bassyclub #ladynico #rolandheinrich #motorcycle #chopper #bobber #custombike #caferacer #oldtimer #hotrod
Since August I run a monthly motorcycle event called The Motocycle Pow Wow at the legendary Bassy Club in Berlin. Bikeriders of different kinds get together, talk, have a drink and enjoy what’s happening. There’s live shows of bands, exhibitions for example of „Thrash it don’t Stash it“ or presentations of motorcycle world tours such as „Notch the world“.
I’m also working on doing two little festival-like motorcycle summer events next year and I was asked to do the program and artistic direction and host of the art show Kustom Kulture Extravaganza at the international festival Kustom Kulture Forever.
Future artistic plans and collabs.
I’d love to do more reportages and travel. Last year I did a reportage about a dancer from the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. That was very exciting and great. There’s some ideas for more stuff like that.
Also a new series of portraits is in the conception right now which will be shot on film on Hasselblad 6×6.
I’m also working myself into making video clips or little movies. Check out my Vimeo channel if you like.
Aside of that I’m always looking for galleries as I mentioned above. Please don’t hesitate to write me if you read this and think of a gallery in your city.
My friend Harry Brack, graphic designer, and me we have a colaboration project going on.
I’m excited like a lil kid for finally holding it in our hands! #BLITZTRUMPF – Battle your friends with the DOPEST #choppers, the most FURIOUS #racers and the WILDEST #custombikes by some of the most NOTORIOUS motorcycle builders of our time. Work in progress with my friend @snafugraphics Launch in early december! Preorder now on blitztrumpf.com @younggunsspeedshop @lippanowski @luckycatgarage @herzbube_motorcycles @uwe_ehinger @eatdust @thecurvesberlin @triprob @tricostore @heprob @kevinattack @circusleo #toptrumps #quartett #bikecardgame #cardgame #bikeriders #motorcycle #custombike #bobber
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It’s the playing cards called Blitztrumpf. You might have seen the game with 32 custom bikes from all over Europe already? It literally sold into the whole world. It’s great fun.
We’re planning on a new set of cards right now.
…a beautiful and powerful medium to freeze and condensate both feelings and characters.
But in our days it’s a medium that has become very inflationary and very unauthentic due to digital modifications. It can by very annoying by times I think.
But the good in it is that it evokes interest in other forms of photography that are limited and less arbitrary.
Analog photography with it’s optional slowness and it’s boundaries that I feel to be very positive.