Travel Through 101 Countries With Patrik Wallner
Armed with a skateboard and a camera, Patrik Wallner set out with like-minded companions and explored every single nook and cranny of Eurasia (Europe and Asia) over the past decade, capturing ways of visual storytelling against the backdrop of skating. One-hundred and one countries later, the project culminated to 232 glossy pages of mesmerizing photos, all bound into a hardcover book called The Eurasia Project. The Eurasia Project is a visually compelling docu-photobook of all of Wallner’s travels with his friends (like skaters Kenny Reed, Michael Mackrodt, and Denny Pham, among many others) from big, cosmopolitan centers like Moscow and Hong Kong to the far outreaches of Yemen, North Korea, and Albania. In addition to publishing his book, Wallner also recently exhibited select images from The Eurasia Project in an art show in New York. We caught up with him to chat about New York, skating and manners in Iran, and of course, the creation of The Eurasia Project.
Tell us about growing up in New York City!
I owe New York a lot for my world views and for being the platform for my photography and film-making. The diversity within the city got me curious about the rest of the World, which then lead me to explore from the eastern edges of Asia to the western tip of Europe and anything in-between. Around the mid-2000s, as I was figuring out how to film skateboarding properly as well as how to document trips abroad, I turned my lenses towards friends like Billy Rohan and Josh Zickert, who then introduced me to a whole network of people within the New York skate scene. I was young, ambitious and motivated, and that landed me a gig filming with the Adidas international team. Soon afterward, I was filming with seasoned travelers like Michael Mackrodt and Kenny Reed, which took me to all these amazing places like into Afghanistan for ‘Meet The Stans’ (2012) and traveling via train through the midst of Siberia in the skate-umentary ‘10,000 Kilometers’ (2009).
You and J.Z. Radical flew out to South Vietnam a decade ago, how was that?
It was madness. It was the first time in Vietnam for both of us and we loved it. We were filming for ‘Translations’ (2008) with Michael Mackrodt, Danny Hamard and JZ. Ho Chi Minh City was just another world, a world overtaken by motorcycles. We rented some and drove into the banks of the Mekong Delta, skated some unique spots, and witnessed Josh taking some hefty slams. As he is known for attempting the sketchiest 50-50s, he found this quadruple kink hubba on a monument surrounded by water and traffic. He tried to pop out but it didn’t quite work and he ended up tumbling down a bunch of stairs. I think that was the first time Vietnam saw a brightly dressed American with a Mercedes Benz emblem hanging around his neck, jumping onto the most insane hubba in the middle of an intersection. Good times.
How was it entering/filming in Iran?
At first, we were all quite scared since we were hearing only about the intensity of the Islamic Revolution. But almost upon arrival, we were treated with the most sincere care, which we later learned that in Iran, this form of care and courtesy with specific rules is called ‘taarof’. For example, if one compliment your painting or the sofa in your house, you are supposed to offer the complemented item three times to the guest as a gesture of politeness. Of course, one is expected to decline out of respect but the taarof makes it so that one has to offer it three times.
When we were staying with our local skate friend MJ, we had no idea of the ‘taarof’, so poor MJ fulfilled the wishes of a group of eight skaters. We were also very surprised to discover that MJ was pressing skateboards by himself in his basement. With a harsh embargo placed on Iran by the West, gaining access to skateboards is almost impossible. MJ decided to make his own, which is very inspiring. You can watch it all in the skate-umentary ‘The Persian Version’ (2013).
What is the Eurasia Project all about?
For more than a decade, I’ve been on the road in Asia without a stable home. I’ve also gotten myself into some remote corners of Europe and Asia like North Korea, Albania, East Timor, Yemen, and so forth. So after a while, it just made sense to try to visit all the one hundred and one nations that make up this supercontinent of Europe and Asia. I found the contrasts between these places to be very strong visually. The last three years I’ve been running around like a madman trying to get at least one photo from each country for my photo book. Now, it’s all done with 232 pages and I am quite proud and excited to share it with the world, not just Europe and Asia.
Get yourself a copy of ‘The Eurasia Project’ at www.visualtraveling.com for only 35 Euros.
Images courtesy of Patrik Wallner
Stay tuned to Milk for more art happenings.