Travel photography part three: Jan Opdekamp’s 9000miles

Our third travel of the week takes us on one hell of a journey, a road trip that starts in Ghent and ends in Barcelona. Named 9000miles (after the size of the travelling tribe as well as the home-city’s post code), the road trip saw musicians, graffiti artists, skaters, video-makers and photographers cram up in a van and set out for four weeks of raising havoc across Europe.Here, we speak to photographer Jan Opdekamp about life on the road with a jolly bunch of misfits. 

When was the series made?

The entire series was created during the four weeks of being on tour with the 9000-Miles project in the summer of 2011.

Can you explain the title, 9000miles, to us?

 The project brought together nine artists from the Ghent-area (postal code 9000) to travel through nine European cities so the name sort of emerged by itself out of that concept.

What was your exact itinerary? Where do you land, take-off from, where did you stay, how long did you stay, etc…?

We started out in Gent, then travelled through Eindhoven and Berlijn to Prague, shot over to Vienna and Budapest, spent a few days in Zagreb and Milan and finally made it home over Barcelona and Tours (France). The whole project was pretty low-budget, so it wasn’t all hotel rooms and good restaurants: we actually spent quite some nights sleeping on campsites, apartment floors, the van and one time on the beach.

What is your favourite photograph from the series, and why?

It’s always hard to make that kind a decision but if I have to choose then I would go with the picture at Spreepark in Berlin – the one with dinosaurs and the ferris wheel in the background. We got to know about this abandoned theme park by some locals –  who also told us we’d probably be kicked out of the place in 10-15 minutes by heavy security with dogs or some not so friendly gypsies who live there in their campers. Turns out we were – no security in sight- so we were able to do a 1.5 hour tour through the place. It was raining, very windy and the ferris wheel was making a creepy squeaky noise that gave us all the creeps. The picture shows you the ruins of what must’ve been a happy colorful family place, which is now reduced to nothing but scrap metal, gives you kind of a mixed feeling. Afterwards I read the reason why this place was abandoned: the owner openened a theme park in Lima that failed miserably – and in an attempt to cut his expenses, he tried to smuggle 17.5 million euro worth of cocaine to Europe in a flying carpet attraction. Needless to say he got caught and sentenced.

What was one stand-out moment from the trip?

After an 11 hour drive in the sizzling heat from Milan to Barcelona, we arrived but we didn’t find a place to sleep. So we decided to park the van near the seaside of the outskirts of town and to sleep on the beach. We were all utterly dead tired, started nagging on each other for the smallest disagreements but in the end sleeping underneath the stars wasn’t all that bad and became one of my personal most memorable moments on tour.

Did you meet anyone out of the ordinary that somehow defined the trip?

On trips like these you get to meet interesting people every single day, but one of the most memorable would be the days we spent in Vienna. In Vienna we didn’t really have any contacts whatsoever. so whilst looking for galleries to work in or walls to spray paint, we accidentally ran into ROA, one of  Ghent’s most famous street artist, who was just about to meet with Matthias from the local Vice magazine for an interview. Matthias hooked us with Stereotyp, an amazing producer / visual artist who was friendly enough to invite al 9 of  us to his home where we were offered a brilliant night with all we could ever desire and a giant white wall to paint in his basement.

Who were you travelling with, if anyone?

The 9000miles crew consisted of nine people, three musicians; Rob, AC and Hypercutz from Moontroop. Two graffiti artists and one conceptual artist; aSquidCalledSebastian, Steve Locatelli, Stanislas Lahaut, one manager; Nadia Oussehmine, Stijn ‘ Thirddigit’ for video and myself as photographer.

What is the next trip you have planned?

I should be having some trips coming up!
The people from 9000miles are thinking of a new tour in the summer of 2013, I can’t really say anything about that yet, but as soon as I know, you’ll get to know for sure. Besides that I’m thinking of going back to Sweden. A couple of years ago I hitchhiked to Stockholm starting from Antwerp. From there on we travelled to the Siljan lake where I really had the time of my life.
On the other hand I might be going to visit a friend whose renting a house in Ibiza for the summer. I guess I’ll skip the party scene, but head over to the national parks. Let’s say I’m very glad to escape my Belgian routine once in a while…