Kustom Lifestyle Dirk Behlau Photography by Dirk Behlau
What with the plethora of stripped-down, affordable versions of Photoshop and other image editing programs, and the ever-growing assortment of special effects apps for camera phone photos, photographs often don’t seem as “real” as they once did. You look at a captured image and you wonder what techniques (cropping, filtering, tonal tweaking, masking, etc.) the photographer used to create the image. While we amateurs are happy to fix up our happy snaps with apps and adjustments, old-school photographers strongly prefer to get it right in the camera. Dirk “The Pixeleye” Behlau is a picture-perfect example of this sort of thinking. He likes to take 14 May 2012 TATTOO
move from capturing artsy, stylized buildings to the world of street art and popular culture, but the unifying thread is the visceral appeal all of his subjects hold for him. “I was into rock ’n’ roll, American cars, girls, and heavy metal since I was a kid,” says Dirk. “But I also love the clean look of furniture and huge white walls with nothing on them. So after shooting design-related themes for some years, I wanted to portray the lifestyle I live myself in my very own special view. I just did it my way.” The art he wears on his own skin is all black and gray. “I have a fifties Sci-Fi Pinup from my friend Joe Capobianco on my right leg. I also have two full arm sleeves done by another good friend of mine called MAZE from Santa Sangre Tattoo in Cologne, Germany—hot rods, flying eyeballs, fifties monsters, flames, comics. Another tattoo is the lettering on my chest, “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” one of my favorite Metallica songs done by my friend Andy from Body Electric Tattoos. He also did a sacred heart with the name of my daughter and a fifties rocket with the name of my son on my left leg. The latest one is a little TCB-related one on my neck done by Austrian tattoo artist Roz at Pin-Up Tattoo Vienna.” Dirk does more than photography. His studio, “Pixeleye Interactive” was established in 1999.
He does a lot of graphic design, product design, record covers and films/music videos work too. And he travels a lot. Last year he was on the road for about 200 days. “I don’t consider the stuff I do every day as work. I do what I love and I would do it even if I didn’t get any money out of it,” says Dirk. “It’s great that I have been able to make a living out of it for more than ten years now. I’m very grateful for that, but basically I just do what I have to do. And I do it for myself. If the things I produce do not convince me then I’m not going public with them.” His latest project Flake & Flames is an upcoming documentary film he is working on with his buddy Jesper Bram from Denmark. It is a portrait of the kustom kulture scene with international artists, car and bike builders, and other creative types. “We visited most of the guys at home and in their garages and studios to get kind of a behind-the-scenes view. It will be released later this year on DVD. First we have to finish the editing and then submit it to film festivals. Check out the teasers; you might like it if you are a little bit into rock ’n’ roll, tattoos and cool people.” www.flakeandflames.com —Michelle Delio
Tina van Nekro
www.pixeleye.de, www.dirkbehlau.de and www.facebook.com/thepixeleye.
photos that have a cinematic feeling and look, that make people and scenarios look cool and epic, larger than life. But it is critical to him that his work is created naturally, without any special effects. “A photo is a photo and not artwork where you remove or add things later on the computer,” says Dirk. “My photos are real. I prefer to shoot in real locations not in clean studios. Ideally, I want to capture things as they happen, not re-creations of events. I don’t crop photos or retouch or anything else. It has to be a perfect shot in the camera. The framing, angle, etc. has to be chosen before taking the picture. Otherwise I could compose an artwork and build it together in Photoshop later on. For me, that has nothing to do with photography. I hardly spend more than a couple of minutes on a shot. Of course I remove a pimple on the nose if the model has a bad day, but that’s nearly all I alter.” Dirk is based in Mannheim, Germany, and is
well known globally as a photographer of the oldskool/kustom” lifestyle. He has published several photo books and you will find his work making regular appearances in magazines worldwide. “Kustom lifestyle is just about doing your own thing in life without following trends and what the mass media is trying to tell you what is cool,” says Dirk. “Create things, improve every day, learn and have fun with the people you love. The kustom kulture thing has everything I could every think of—cars, bikes, music, art, pinups, tattoos and much more. But basically, for me, it’s about living my life like I want to live it.” Dirk got his first camera at a very young age, it was a little Agfa Ritsch-Ratsch—a simple kind of camera that you have to wind for every picture. Back then, Dirk loved to shoot the battle scenarios he built with Lego and Playmobile figures. As an adult, his first professional jobs were photographing hotels and other interior design work. It may seem like a big switch to
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