Take a look at a site symbolising courage in the former Czechoslovakia prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain. In the run-up to 1989, people would leave messages full of their longing for peace and freedom as a tribute to John Lennon, despite the then Communist regime’s best efforts to stamp out such rhetoric.

To this day, the Lennon Wall in Prague remains a place where anyone is free to express themselves. All they need is courage. In this video, two people who have mustered the courage to step into the unknown meet at the Lennon Wall. They are joined by the new ŠKODA SCALA in unique camouflage.

The SCALA is the ŠKODA brand’s own courageous step forward, aspiring to set new standards in technology, safety and design for the C-segment.

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But back to the video’s main heroes:
read our interviews with Chemis and Dave Krugman

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What’s the meaning behind the symbol of the hand you rendered on the Lennon Wall?
It represents the fight for freedom of expression. The grey hands are trying to stop the hand with the pen and to take the pen away because the hand is the desire for freedom and the pen is the means to attain that. Just as I have a spray can and an idea in my head. You can’t suppress the idea as easily as the means used to express it.

How difficult was this graffiti?
It was challenging, but fortunately I had enough time to achieve the quality I wanted.

You were working in a busy place. Are you accustomed to people watching you as you work?
It’s entirely normal for me. You’ll often find me at various street art festivals, where people are watching me, chatting to me and taking photos with me. People are intrigued and want to communicate with the artist.

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Chemis
street artist from Prague

You are best known for your 3D graffiti. How difficult is it to do things close up so that they look good at a distance?
It’s difficult. A lot depends on how big the painting is. The most important part is the basic sketch on the wall. If the sketch is done well, the rest is really just colouring-in for me. The first stage in the process, getting those lines on the wall, is the trickiest part. I have done pieces that have made me tear my hair out, they were so complicated. But you can’t expect success unless you work hard.

When you think of the words “courage” and “graffiti”, do any memories spring to mind?
Sure, when you first start doing it. Those moments when you grab a spray can and set off to do your first job. That certainly takes courage, especially if you’re only sixteen or so. I think this is the most palpable feeling in the beginning, definitely.

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Is there anything courageous about what you are doing today?
I encounter things that are new and different every time, and some can be quite difficult to pull off. But I always try to get them done. I want to move forward, prove myself, push myself. That is probably the closest to courage I can get. And, of course, making a living out of this is courageous. Now, obviously, I’m starting to establish myself, but the beginnings were hard. My family said that I wouldn’t make a career out of it, but the point is that I’m pursuing my own goal.

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When did you actually decide you would make a living out of graffiti painting?
It wasn’t a snap decision, more of a process. To be honest, I didn’t know what else I would like to do, but I always enjoyed painting. I told myself that I’d maybe like to make a career out of this one day. I did try my hand at a normal job, but I found out it wasn’t for me. When I graduated from college at the age of 24, I had to decide what to do next. At the same time, the quality of my work was improving – we are always learning, me too, improving myself, trying out new techniques and procedures. So I kept on painting until I got to the stage where I could earn enough from it to live on. What I love most about it is the fact that I’m not stuck in one place doing the same thing over and over again.

Have you ever regretted this courageous step?
A few years back I did wonder a little if it had been a good idea. But that was mainly because of personal matters – there was no one with whom I could share what was going on. Now, with hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything, from the very beginning, has made me who I am. I certainly wouldn’t change that.

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Do you remember when you took your first photographs?
When I was 9 or 10, I went to a summer camp, where I took a photography course and we were shooting on black-and-white film. I remember the dark room. There was just a red light, and it was very quiet, with all these chemicals around. We put the paper in the developer and silver crystals started to come off the paper and this image slowly emerged. It’s the closest thing to magic I’ve ever seen in my life. I couldn’t believe it as a kid. I think I’ve always been chasing that same moment of magic, even though, today, you can just press a button and have a photo instantaneously develop.

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Dave Krugman
photographer and influencer
from New York

So you started with old-school photography using film, but digital photography has easily come out on top now. What’s better, the classical way or the digital way?
I don’t think there’s a “better” way to make photos. Any way you can make photos is valid, and each has its own risks and rewards. Personally, I stick more to digital, but then for my own passion projects I will use film a lot because I like that old process and those old colours. So I love both ways; I couldn’t choose between them. For my commercial work, however, I use digital much more because I find it to be a lot more reliable. Very little of my work these days is with print. Everything lives online, so it’s good to have the data already converted to digital files.

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How often are you on your travels?
I think have travelled maybe 25% of my time recently, but I haven’t been back home to New York for more than a day in the last two months, and that’s been really exciting. The thing I love about photography is that you can master a creative tool. The camera is my key to a hotel room, it’s my plane ticket, it’s everything. This craft has enabled me to move through the world. I don’t have to stay in one place and go to the same job every single day. Every day is new and fresh for me and I would say it’s aspiring for a photographer if you can get so far with your camera that it can open any door for you.

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How often don’t you have a camera with you?
Well, the thing about smartphones is that I always have a camera with me. But there are times when I don’t pick up my camera. I was just in Kenya and I’d taken six thousand pictures, so on the last day I had my camera with me, but I didn’t use it. There is a beauty to not looking at the world through a screen. Maybe I’m at dinner with friends and I don’t want to have a barrier between us with a camera or my phone, but even then I am looking at the way the candlelight is moving through the wine glass and I’m thinking how I’d shoot it, or how I could use that pattern later.

Have there been any courageous moments in your career that have moved you forward?
I think that it takes a lot of courage to pursue a creative career. It’s not always the most secure path. Everything’s constantly changing. You always have to be on your toes, because it’s very easy to settle in and go to the same place every day and know that you are going to get that pay cheque and know where you’re going to eat lunch and what you are going to be doing that day. To me it took some courage to make the leap and say I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But I know I’m happy today.

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Do you remember the moment you decided to branch out on your own?
I used to work in advertising and I was hiring Instagram influencers for my clients. I saw their contracts keep going higher and higher, yet there I was with just as many followers as they had. During my lunch break, I would go out and shoot the streets of New York. I was so much happier on those breaks than in the office. And so I decided to talk to my boss. He was very generous and said, “You know what, why don’t you have half the time in the office and then the rest of the time you go and meet people and network and try to get them into what you’re doing?” So I did that for a while, but then it got to a point where I just felt that I had no choice.

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One time it snowed three feet in New York and I was in the middle of a very important meeting. I was looking out the window and thinking to myself, “When is this going to happen again?” The second that meeting was over, I was out of the door. The next day, I had a conversation with my bosses. I said, “Guys, I appreciate this job so much and I love it but I’m meant to be on the other side of this equation. I need to be the one out there creating.” My soul demanded that I pursue the creative path.

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Have you ever regretted that decision?
No. I regret perhaps the way I should have been a little better about how I left. I was so desperate to go and see the world that I was kind of just, “Bye!”

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Smartphones have transformed the way we look at photography. What do you think?
They are the biggest shift in the history of photography as creative work. When you buy a phone now, by default it comes with a camera. So even people who aren’t making a conscious decision to buy a camera are buying cameras. When you have that level of saturation of a creative tool, there’s a completely new class of creative people rising up. Look at the Lennon Wall here, it’s a great example: every single day, hundreds of people come here and take pictures. Hundreds of people who, ten years ago, would perhaps never take a photograph. This is the future of advertising and the future of content generation.

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Since we’re at the Lennon Wall, how do you like it?
I think this place is very interesting because it’s a symbol of being loud when you’re told to be silent. That’s really an important thing, especially in these times, that we need to do. I think that places where people came to express themselves even at great risk to their personal safety are sacred. It takes a lot of courage to do those things. The appearance of this wall is itself an excellent example of community endeavour. There’s not one person who designed this wall. It’s the amalgamation of everybody who’s walked by with a permanent marker or spray. People from all over the world come here and write on this wall – that’s a global conversation.

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