text by Yukiko Yamane
photo by Martha Cooper, Ninja K, Cpt Olf

14 Issue:1UP(Graffiti crew)


Age is just a number and there’ is no clear definition of being what is an adult and every person is different. We can’t define it, so everybody is looking for their own answers in life. 14 is a sensitive age. It’s when you start thinking about your own future, so we wanted to make a series of age 14. After the Tokyo and New York issue, we selected 15 people in Berlin who have very diverse background, different ages and professions for 14 Issue in Berlin.
Ninth interview is with Berlin based graffiti crew 1UP (ONE UNITED POWER). They’re unidentified crew and nobody knows the exact number of members or about their age and personal lives and so on. However you can find their tags everywhere when you walk the city of Berlin. Currently they expand their graffiti, which includes political messages on a worldwide scale. We had the opportunity to hear the stories of three anonymous members of the crew. What is their teenage years and graffiti?

—Could you tell us about yourself when you were 14 years old?

A: As we are quite diverse in what we do besides graffiti nowadays also when we were 14 we did quite different things. While some of us were good at school others were not that motivated to invest much time into that. Most of us were already discovering their surroundings trespassing in one way or another.

B: But not all of us were part of the “cool kids” at that point of their lives. I was already a little bit interested in graffiti but I was still in the soccer team and did my homework every day after school. What was helpful for me later on…

—What did you do in those days?

—What did you think about at age 14?

—Please tell us your most memorable moment at age 14?
C: I just started tagging during that time. One afternoon we hung around the backsides of some buildings catching taggs. It seemed so quiet but suddenly two police officers popped through the bushes and were standing in front of us. Fortunately they didn’t see us tagging. They were looking for somebody else but searched us anyway. Somehow we had managed to slip away our markers without them noticing it. When they had left the shock slowly left us. I started to be more careful but for one of my friends of that time it was the last time he was tagging.

B: I wasn’t doing graffiti yet…my most memorable thing was my first kiss! That was fun and exciting as well!

—What did you want to do when you were 14 years old?

A: Our dream was to do as much as creative stuff as possible. Graffiti, rap, design, skateboarding, printing shirts, organizing parties with rap concerts. We wanted to be free and have a great time with our best friends after school.

—Just what you guys are going now. How did you start your carrier?

C: Not far away from my house the motorway passed. There was always graffiti and me and my friends picked up the leftovers and started painting with those. One of my best friends mums was a teacher and she always had lots of markers which were the first ones we used for tagging at school 🙂

A: I grew up in Kreuzberg and graffiti just was everywhere. I was wondering who did all the pieces and how they did it. One of my friends older brothers was painting and we got a marker from him and started doing taggs.

B: I knew the others already since I was a kid but it took a couple of years until I went along to an action. Actually until I was 20. So my first mission was a subway whole car. They just gave me two chromes and I had to do the fill in.

—Please let us know the feeling when you wrote the first graffiti.

C: One of the oldest memories of my feelings while painting is that I was totally engulfed from the act of painting an illegal piece. It was a time I was stressed from school. I went out to the motorway and did a chromebombing and while I was painting I realized that the pressure from school was totally gone and that I was totally focussed on my bombing. Somehow relieving!

A: For me it was a rush. I went out tagging and I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to take over the neighborhood..

—How much effort did you put into your work?

C: At first I only painted now and then outside investing more time into sketching. But overall graffiti didn’t have the priority then that it had in later years.

A: I got into graffiti really quickly. I wanted to know how and when. I went to the library and lent out all the available graffiti books. Doing sketches in school instead of listening in class and so on.

—What good and bad things have happened to you since you started as graffiti writers?

A: My worst experience is that while I was super on fire some older writers from the neighborhood didn’t take me seriously and harassed me over the first years.

C: I remember that I had just started tagging and we had an exchange with a Polish class from Warszawa. We took the commuters and they were bombed from top to bottom. That made a lasting expression on me! Also I experienced the community spirit of graffiti for the first time. While my classmates weren’t that interested in the Polish pupils I somehow found out that one of the other class was painting as well and we constantly connected…

—What inspired you at age 14?

C: I really enjoyed reading novels like the books of Jack London. I didn’t look at much graffiti books yet.

A: As I mentioned above I went to the library. There they had a German book series on graffiti called Graffiti Art. I used these books to copy sketches and to get inspirations. But also to read some first insides on train writing. They had subway art as well. I was really awed when we first met Martha Cooper herself all these years later. 20 years after I had started graffiti looking at her book she was taking photos of my painting. Incredible.


—Is there anything you would recommend to 14 years olds?

A: Read books. If you want to get into graffiti check out the movies “Wild Style (1982)” and the “Dirty Handz” series. Especially “Dirty Handz 2 – Back On Tracks (2001)” and “Dirty Handz 3 – Search and Destroy (2006)”. When I was young I really enjoyed Area 08, a Swedish movie I think. And don’t forget to watch our DVD as well 🙂

“Wild Style”

—Please tell us the message to the youth of today.

B: Do your thing! Try to feel what you want to do and do that. Don’t let the peer pressure get you! And don’t pressure anybody else!

A: Yeah. Try different things. Be open to new experiences!

—Do you have any news or upcoming events that you want to share to the readers?

A: Stay tuned. Check instagram and youtube! Something new coming soon 🙂

@1up_crew_official :

photography Martha Cooper, Ninja K, Cpt Olf
text Yukiko Yamane

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