Lonely Planet Writer

Two houseboats converted into photography studios are sailing across Europe

Two photographers are living what seems to be the dream, sailing around the canals and rivers of Europe on houseboats and connecting with other artists along the way.

The intricate hand-built houseboat that Claudius Schulze is sailing. Image: Kevin McElvaney / mediadrumworld.com

Claudius Schulze from Germany and Maciej Markowicz from Poland set sail from Hamburg in November 2017 on their 2Boats project. They have visited Amsterdam and Paris so far, and plan to spend the spring in Berlin during which they will attend the Open Gallery Weekend. They will head back to Hamburg in June for the city’s Triennial of Photography, as they are ambassadors for this photography fair.

The Obscurabus houseboat built by Maciej Markowicz. Image: Maciej Markowicz

Photographer and researcher Claudius Schulze built the “Eroberung des Unwahrscheinlichen” or “Conquest of the Improbable” as a floating photographic platform. When the project began, he was already living on the houseboat, which he transformed into a living space. “The boat was built from scratch in Hamburg,” he says.

The inside of Claudius Schulzes houseboat, The Conquest of the Improbable. Image: Claudius Schulze/mediadrumworld.com

“It’s a catamaran with FRP floaters that we built ourselves. Salvaged material was used wherever possible – for example, all the outside walls are built from scrap wood from the demolition of an old farm barn and all windows are obviously recycled as is the wood decking. The boat uses photo-voltaic power; there are solar panels installed on the roof. Water is filtrated from the water the boat floats in, and the toilet is a dry compost toilet.”

As Schulze’s photographic work focuses on the state of nature and the societal changes caused by climate change, he sees the boat as a space where he can develop and test new concepts and ideas that will eventually re-surface in his artistic work. Visitors are welcomed aboard to participate in a dialogue on vision, formation, creation and the environment, as well as observe the artist’s photography.

The early stages of the intricate hand-built houseboat that Maciej Markowicz is sailing. Image: Maciej Markowicz

Polish photographer and designer, Maciej Markowicz, is based in Berlin, and he works full-time on The Moving Camera project. He uses giant mobilised camera obscuras (the Latin for dark room) to examine the everyday dynamics of water and urban life. He exposes images directly onto large-scale sheets of photographic paper, creating direct-negative images without film or digital technology. Visitors can see his unique projections and introduce themselves to his work inside his boat.

Maciej Markowicz in studio. Image: Maciej Markowicz

He built the boat, called Obscurabus, with his brother and friend back in Poland, and has now covered 2400km while travelling through Europe. Maciej sometimes gives talks and river tours on his boat that visitors can experience. “Since my boat is my studio and the working photographic laboratory/camera, it naturally has become my life,” he tells Lonely Planet.

Inside Maciej Markowicz’s Obscurabus houseboat. Image: Maciej Marlowicz

“It was very important for me to create plenty of space and light inside the living studio at the front to balance the working hours inside the camera room at the rear. I am a ‘less is more’ person so generally the interior is minimalistic – it’s like camping inside a giant camera.”

Claudius Schulze’s boat, “The Conquest of the Improbable.” Image: Claudius Schulze/mediadrumworld.com

During their trip, both artists will be engaging in a study of the environment, urban life and photography. They are always on the lookout for new perspectives and novel experiences. You can learn more and follow their experiences via Ubermut Project website here and can check out Claudius Schulze’s website here and Maciej Markowicz’s website here.