Q & A with devbeep
BYN: why do you do take pictures of the tunnels?
dev: i guess just because i can, and because they're the craziest most beautiful spots i've ever been to. they're extremely filthy and dangerous, but they're also the quietest and most peaceful spots at the same time (to paraphrase whats his name). it's nice going to the only place in NYC that hasn't changed in 100 years, especially with how badly things have been changing in the past decade. there's also a weird sense of privilege of seing firsthand what really lies below the streets of NYC.. to walk a tunnel from one station to another, and then see all the oblivious people walking above once you get out. i can't think of many other places that are as mysterious and mythologized to the general public than the NYC underground.
BYN: ever got lost?
dev: nope, i think i have a really good sense of direction in general. tunnels are easy, they really only go one way or the other. most places i go are fairly self contained, and the worst it's ever come to is looking at the sun to figure out which way is which.
BYN: what’s your favorite thing to flick?
dev: if i'm just walking around the streets, it's basically anything strange or funny or something people don't see every day, and i just happen to have the opportunity to shoot it. i know a lot of people that are a lot better than i am at that sort of thing.. for shots i actually set up, they're usually landscapes in places people don't normally see. subway tunnels, rail tunnels, abandoned factories, waterfronts, train tracks, construction sites, graffiti, any night scenes that are especially surreal looking in long exposures.
BYN: what do you use?
dev: i have a nikon D70s with either a Nikkor 18mm-70mm (3.5-4.5) lens, or a Tamron 11m-18mm (4.5-5.6) for extreme wide angle shots, with a Nikon sb800 speedlight. tripod is mandatory. i also carry a little canon powershot at all times, just in case.
BYN: what’s a normal day for you?
dev: i wake up sometime between noon and 1 pm, make a giant pot of coffee while i check my mail and the news online until i ride my bike to work around 2 pm. sit around and read books and look at circuit diagrams while my only co-worker gets trashed and yells at the tv when Everybody Loves Raymond is on. i get home at 11 pm and, depending on the season and my mood, i either go out shooting or bike riding (or both) until 5 am, or i go straight to the bar.
BYN: what’s your favorite thing to eat?
dev: i'm a really boring eater.. i eat the same shit every day. egg and cheese for breakfast. cheese sandwich and dr pepper for lunch. chinese food for dinner. every day. when i get the chance though, there are some good indian and falafel places in town, but i don't get too excited about food.
BYN: what’s you favorite graffiti type of shit?
dev: i know how hard it is to do something interesting with a can of paint, so i really appreciate people that can do really detailed work with a can and make it seem like the easiest thing in the world (rime comes to mind..). on the other hand, i have a lot of respect for people who mix graffiti in with a sort of exploration type of mindset and just pop up in all the weird secret spots that very few people know about, and hit them hard (smith sane duro bruz ja etc). then there are the people who just recently started taking a lot of more fun art based aspects of modern street art, but doing it in the typical style of graffiti, ie illegal, spray paint, secret spots (J&K and i had a conversation about that). it's a lot of fun crawling around a track spot or old warehouse and stumbling upon something fun rather than just your standard weird lettering pieces. and then there's revs.
BYN: what you think of street art?
dev: i assume you mean the non-graffiti street art, excluding postal stickers.
i used to be somewhat into it years ago, but i think the whole scene these days is completely overrun with these ridiculous art school clowns who think they're the biggest badass on the block for printing some photoshopped piece of shit on the college printer and running around williamsburg with a bucket of wheatpaste they found the ingredients for on the internet.. nevermind their total disrespect for other artists' work that happens to be up on the walls first. i remember 80's new york, these guys wouldn't have survived for a second doing some of the shit they do. i won't name names... except wk, he sucks my ass hardcore. nevermind all those REVS wannabes..
BYN: do you shoot street art, why ?
dev: a few minutes on flickr and you'll find a rather large handful of people who shooting NOTHING BUT street art. i don't get that. there are a lot more accidentally beautiful things in the world to concentrate on rather than what some assholes can contrive and try to pass off as a statement of creativity.
BYN: what’s the farthest you have gone?
dev: all the way, many times.
wait, in a tunnel? longest tunnel i know with no interruptions is the freedom tunnel, but it's really easy and not a big deal to get through. my longest subway walk was underground from the manhattan bridge to the World Trade Center. that's a really fun walk.
BYN: do always find your way back?
dev: if it's a tunnel, i try not to backtrack, it's usually easier to just keep going until you can find another way out. people would be surprised to know how many entrances there are into tunnels.
BYN: who’s your favorite person to go out with?
dev: i'm really kind of independent, and i usually like to go places alone, especially tunnels. it's just a lot easier to hide from trains or workers when you're alone, and it's not as dangerous as it sounds. any stranger is just as afraid of you in a tunnel as you are of them.. if they're not, they're probably wasted drunk or on a heroin cloud, and it makes for an easier fight for you anyway if it comes to that.
abandoned buildings or stuff like that is a lot scarier.. i've been vastly outnumbered in some places i've been to.
lately i've been spending a lot of time checking out spots with Jim and Karla Murray, who i met through flickr. they have a few books out on NYC graf which led them to the whole exploration thing.. we've introduced each other to a lot of spots that we probably wouldn't have known about, or had the opportunity to explore if we weren't together.
BYN: what’s your favorite beer?
dev: Pinkus, Ommegang Vitte, Chimay, Sam Smith.
I can't afford those though, so it's Yeungling and PBR, Schlitz when i can find it. OE 40's are a good deal too, and not as bad as people think.
BYN: what’s you think of graffiti now?
dev: i definitely don't see as much as i used to around the city, but there are people in my area that are doing some really impressive stuff (aids crew, adhd, dym). i go to a lot of places where people say "oh man, that spot used to be really fucking great, nothing but toys now..".. i just get this sinking feeling like, the city really did win. it's still going, but it's not what it used to be. that goes for a LOT of things in NYC these days.. it goes against common sense to say it, prosperity really is a shitty, shitty thing for people like us. you used to be able to get away with anything around here, now i walk down broadway and feel like i'm walking around the short hills mall. i could go on for hours about this..
BYN: what you think of the west coast graffiti?
dev: i haven't been to the west coast since 2002, and i'm really only interested in graffiti in the local sense, in that i'm interested in stuff people i know are doing, or pieces i can see in person and get a feel for the environment in which they were done. i don't go online searching for things if i don't know what they are.. i guess it's just a personal relationship i have with it. that makes it a highly local issue for me.
BYN: what you think of photographers now ?
dev: cheap digital photography has introduced a lot of people to the art that otherwise wouldn't have wanted anything to do with it (myself included). this has made for some really great photographers who wouldn't have had a chance to do their work because of time and financial restraints. on the other hand, this has created a large forum for the general public to take millions upon millions of shitty pictures and clog the internet with them because, well, they just don't know any better. sites like Flickr, in my opinion, really suffer from this equality factor.. there's a lot of really amazing and inventive stuff out there, but the more there is, the harder it is to sift through the trash and find it. the whole popularity system is extremely flawed as a result; it's like a visual version of Top 40.
that said, as far as high quality, non-pretentious photographers that i like go, it's a very short list. i would rather be out doing something than sifting through a thousand cellphone cam shots of times square before i find a great local photographer. still waiting for a solution to this problem.
BYN: did you ever get arrested?
dev: once, when i was 15.. other than that, no. i've never even been approached or questioned by anyone, cop or non-cop. sneaking into places is one of those skills that almost approaches an art form, and i feel like i'm getting pretty good at it. i'm also super paranoid to the point of annoyance to anyone that might come with me, but hey. i've had a few close calls lately, so i've been taking a break from the whole thing until i feel comfortable again.
one of the recent close calls was actually pretty weird... waiting for a train to go by on the L line, i run into the tunnel and find a safe spot to unpack and set up my equipment. get all my shit together and start jogging towards the next hiding spot down the line. a 2 foot high door that i didn't see on the -SIDE- of the tunnel opens up, and a guy with a flashlight sticks his head out and says "who goes there??". i froze, hoping he wouldn't see me, but he did, and repeated his line. i was pretty freaked out by this.. to see flashlights in the distance down the line is one thing, but this was right out of a nightmare.. i just ran back down to the station and sprinted down the platform. hipsters beware.
BYN: what you think of law on what you do and on graffiti?
dev: the laws for what i do are pretty much nothing.. one guy i know got busted walking around a tunnel, and was given a $50 ticket. pff. other spots the charges rise as high as simple trespass, a misdemeanor. i make sure not to carry anything illegal on me, which could raise the charge to criminal trespass, which almost guarantees probation or jail time. in that sense, i'm a big pussy compared to people who do graf.
the charges for graffiti artists are getting really insane, but that's understandable as there really isn't anyone in the legal community that would oppose jail time and heavy fines for something that, in my opinion, should not be nearly demonized as it is in this fucking disney land town, but which a lot of people, well, might not like for whatever reason. again, in my opinion, it all has to do with the economic climate and the types of yokels moving here in droves that have city hall scared to death of being scared by anything more severe than gum on the sidewalk. i'm a big pessimist, because it is the most realistic viewpoint to have, because everything turns to shit around here sooner than later. in general, i really have very little regard for the law. i never do anything that really affects anybody, and i feel like people enjoy seeing places like the ones that i go to. i know law enforcement doesn't agree with me, but i don't care. it's the greyest area i know.
this discussion is best had over a plate of coke, as it could go on all night.
BYN: what’s your favorite band?
dev: it used to be either black flag or the descendents, but i'm getting old, and now ted leo & the pharmacists are on repeat 24/7.
BYN: What’s your favorite movie?
dev: not crazy about movies. but Pi is pretty cool.
BYN: what’s your favorite book?
dev: Contact by Carl Sagan. a great mix of excellent fiction and Mr. Sagan's traditional insistence on highly accurate scientific details regarding astronomy and radio technology, as well as a very reasonable view on how fucked up society is without sounding like a total wingnut.
BYN: who’s your favorite artist?
dev: andrew wyeth. nothing haunts me more than the memories and dreams of my childhood of horrendously depressing rural scenes and situations. don't ask me why, i didn't even grow up in the woods.
BYN: what’s your favorite type of girls?
dev: skinny white dark hair. but red heads with tats are hot too.
BYN: what are you listening to right now?
dev: Sleater Kinney, The Hot Rock LP. i know, i know. i was in a band years ago with a guy who was really into them, and i just got sucked in. i think i listen to it more for nostalgic reasons than anything these days, but i still think it's catchy. and it totally speaks to my inner lesbian.
BYN: Hitler vs revs who would win?
BYN: spinners or big boodie
dev: spinners dude.. i don't get the big shit. i really don't.
BYN: how com you don’t paint ?
dev: i grew up as a little punk rocker, and all we cared about was drinking 40s and playing sick pleasure. all the graf in town was down by the crackhead hip hop kids, and the only thing we had in common was skateboarding. i've always dropped tags in all my favorite spots, but those are just for me.. maybe you've seen them, but only me and sten3 know.
and honestly, i'm a shitty artist. i can do some really decent celtic prints with ink on paper (kells style), but anything freehand is just horrible. i also don't like sitting in one place doing something that can take an hour or more.. just gotta keep moving. pictures last longer anyway :p
BYN: if you have to change your name what it would be?
dev: i don't know, i'm pretty happy with my name. it's fairly normal, but not too common. any more common and it would be boring. any weirder, and it would sound like i had some dipshit yuppie parents.
BYN: whats your fav place to be in the world?
dev: new jersey first, then NYC, what you can find that's left of it, then eau claire and maybe bozeman. but hong kong is fucking amazing too.
BYN: bike or skateboard
dev: i can't skateboard anymore, i fucked up my knee too many times crashing my board and getting hit by cars in boston. i actually have a small side business fixing bikes in the local area.
BYN: did you ever parasail?
dev: no, i don't do the whole heights thing unless i have to. just being in the water is good enough for me.
BYN: whats your favorite drug ?
dev: i did a lot of speed for years growing up, but i can't do any of the hard shit anymore. i drink a few beers every day at the very least, and some weed every now and then if i just want to chill out and not talk to anyone.
BYN: What did you want to be when you grew up?
dev: all the stupid kid shit.. astronaut, baseball player, truck driver.. i'll leave out the obvious one that actually came true :/
BYN: who is your hero?
dev: nobody.. i thought i had some, but it always turned out to be the obvious romanticized versions of people that i was into. aaron cometbus, al burian, revs, whoever. everyone's life really turns out to be just as shitty as your own when you look too closely.
BYN: What do you think of hipsters?
dev: i'm really inspired by their methods of looking really shitty, but spending enough money on their clothes to make an impressive status statement to their peers. recycling 80's dance music with modern synthesizers and modern drugs not only makes financial sense, it frees up a lot of time from coming up with something original to make more time for fixing your hair. great combination of fashion, youth culture and NYC style economics if you ask me. i wish i was one..
BYN: when was your first kiss?
dev: oh god.. no point in lying now.. 13 years ago in a NJ movie theater. i think it was Junior, starring Danny DeVito and Governor Schwarzenegger. her name was Summer (really).. a recent internet search shows that she recently married a 50 year old evangelical priest in rural south carolina. big WTF
BYN: where do you see your self in 5 years?
dev: i really don't want to think about that... but on the other hand, 5 years ago i really would have had no idea what kind of shit i do these days. let's just say who knows.. i don't know where i'll be next month.
BYN: whats your favorite font?
dev: a question only a graffiti artist would ask.. i'm a simple dude.. i like an easy accessible sans serif kinda thing. maybe arial. though the old Courier Unix Terminal fonts bring back a lot of nice memories. or whatever they used on the old VMS/VAX systems.
BYN: what inspires you?
dev: i keep trying to figure that out, just so i can try to manually conjure it here and there. i get really moody sometimes.. that means good moods too. out of nowhere, i just feel a really urgent need to do something. other times, i could care less about anything. i could feel just as strongly from getting a great set of flicks from a really hard to reach tunnel spot as i can from going out and playing pool for a few hours with some kids around town.
BYN: what’s next for devbeep?
dev: it's day by day with me.. things seem better, things get worse. i really never meant to do any of my shit for anyone but myself, and it's going to stay that way until i can look at something i did 3 months ago and actually like it. maybe that will be never, but that's ok. the important things in life are elsewhere, and it's all the obvious shit.
BYN: what you think of fat bitches?
dev: oh, you're just trying to get me in trouble here. tell that one in jersey city that doesn't know how to pack a bowl after dating a dealer for 8 years to stop fucking staring at me at the bar. you're creepy.