An Interview With Brian Kleiber

Who is Brian Kleiber?

It depends on the day…I’m a bit of a renaissance man, always trying to learn something new and keep things fresh. I’ll always love skateboarding, cycling, cameras and animals though.

Anyway, I’m 27 years old and from New Jersey. I lived in Vermont for 7 years before coming to Shanghai.

During the day I work in internet marketing and manage a couple ecommerce sites; doing some SEO, SEM, social media, copywriting and content creation at the moment. At night, I’m usually out skating, riding my bike, big-wave internet surfing or posted up at Lawson’s.

brian kleiber profile photo

You film a lot of skateboarding and take photos as well. Which of these two do you prefer and why?

I love both; I mean they’re so closely related yet very dissimilar at the same time.

I guess my preference also depends on the day. I got into shooting photos way before video though…all as a means of documenting life and freezing moments, you know? The cool thing about photos is that you can snap a single photo and down the line it’ll trigger so many memories for you; I guess video does the same, but a photo needs no storytelling or narrative, it’s more open to interpretation.

ollie in shanghai

What gear is in your bag?

I just got home from filming Xu Zhao and Juhani, and my camera bag happens to be right next to me….( )

Sony A7
50mm prime
12mm 2.8 fisheye
28-70 zoom
2 LED lights for the night prowl (pretty much the only time I get to skate/film)
Rode Mic
Super heavy Opteka handle
Sony HVL-F32 Flash
Promaster 75000EDF Flash
4 extra batteries
A cheapo mini soft box with some colored gels
Essential extras:
green wax
2 extra bearings
skate tool
Miniso boombox
a Miniso powerblock for charging stuff

Tell us about your new video, Mind Steps.

Let’s see, Mind Steps was filmed in about 6 weeks, mostly after work, and features performances from JMART, Edan Qian, Justen Snyder, Ayong, Wang Di, Johnny Tang, Xu Zhao, Alex Greenberg, Per Asplund, Eddie Chang and myself…basically whoever was around while I was skating. (Speaking of which, you gotta get some footage in the next video, BK).

I didn’t really have a goal or vision for the video, it was just whatever clips I was able to get in a little over a month after picking up the A7. The first thing I filmed after getting the camera was Justen’s line out in Pudong – the wallie, no comply 180 and fakie noseslide. A couple weeks after casually filming, Ryan Nimmo asked me if I wanted to show whatever video I’d been working on before the Dream Lens 6 premiere at FLY. I was pretty unsure about it, but was flattered by the proposal…so I put it in gear and filmed most of the video in the last 2 and a half weeks before the party; I actually finished it around midnight the night before!

I don’t really put much thought into my videos, they just end up being a product of whatever inside jokes we’re throwing around mixed with some skating. I don’t really take them too seriously, but I still want people to enjoy them. We’re not usually camping out trying to get a trick for hours…if whoever’s being filmed isn’t feeling a spot or wants to throw in the towel, no big deal. I’m just out to enjoy time with my pals and make memories.

That being said, I’ll totally hang with someone all day while they try a trick…it’s all good, I know how it is. Remember J10 trying that manual for hours a few weeks ago? That was like 16 gigs worth of attempts with no make…

walle to fakie final

How did you get into filming and photography in the first place?

I’ve always liked photos. My parents would always bring this Ricoh point & shoot everywhere and I’d get super hyped when we’d pick up the photos from the shop. I’d be the first to look through the photos on the way home from the photo shop. I think that was what initially sparked my interest in photography.

Anyway, I got my first camera when I was 19 and just started shooting everything; events, skateboarding, cycling, people, inanimate objects, landscapes…whatever. It was cool, and something I knew I could learn and grow with forever.

As far as video goes, the majority of my experience has been within skateboarding. I got into filming skating for the same reasons…I wanted to be able to document stuff and look back on it. I never really cared who would see my videos, especially since I’m still pretty green to the medium. Filming has always been something I do for myself and my friends. I like to have ongoing projects and things to work on…so when you’re filming, you not only have the satisfaction of knowing you captured a moment in time, you get to go home and put it next to other little time capsules and make something.

Favorite city to shoot in?

I have no idea…my favorite place to shoot probably isn’t even a city. At the moment I’ll go with Shanghai though, cause after over 20 months here it’s still fresh to me and always changing.

sketchy dentist chair in shanghai photo

Why did you come out to Shanghai originally? What keeps you here?

Came out to Shanghai because my buddy John had a job for me. It was a super quick decision on my part. I was working in Burlington, VT and had a great job at an incredible company working with some of the best people…life was pretty comfortable and I was still continuously learning. Had a pretty settled day-to-day, it was comfy. John just hit me up one day and convinced me to come out to Shanghai to teach skateboarding; there was no way I could say no to that. I mean, the company sponsored my visa and flew me out here, so it wasn’t even like I had any excuse to not give it a go. So I did the skate gig for a bit, but needed a different challenge. I felt like teaching skateboarding was like herding cats; it’s not something that’s supposed to be controlled like that. I went back to the digital marketing world and have been loving it.

I stay out here because it allows me to learn everyday and still feels brand new to me. I’ll know when I want to move on though, but right now Shanghai is home! Got some super good friends out here, the skating is amazing, and I’ve definitely made some lifelong connections.


What sort of things do you like to film and/or take photos of?

Everything really…I mean as far as filming goes, it’s skating for the most part. The city here is amazing and you’re always finding new spots to skate, so filming never really gets boring. You’re not really going to a spot with a mental list of what’s already been done or whatever.

For photos I also like shooting a bit of everything. Photography is still a matter of making memories for me, so I’m shooting whatever’s in front of me.

What are the differences, if any, between shooting biking and skateboarding?

I’d say the biggest difference is the fact that shooting cycling is much more candid; you’re not shooting a photo 10 times because you don’t like the way their arms look or a flash didn’t fire.

What is your favorite photo of skateboarding?

If I had to just pick one, it would no doubt be this shot by Ryan Gee of Quim Cardona switch ollieing this bar. Everything about this photo is perfect. You get a nice blend of warm & cool and it perfectly portrays what it’s like to skate in the city. I mean, check out the plated door he probably popped off of and the crusty sidewalk he’s about to land on. Plus, Quim’s ollies are beautiful.

quim cardona switch ollie in nyc

Favorite skate photographer?

Probably Tobin Yelland…his black and whites are amazing have amazing feel to them. He also had a show about 5 years ago in Burlington, VT which gave me an even better appreciation of his work. Plus, the show had a mini ramp and Rough Francis played.

Favorite photo of anything?

I definitely don’t have one…I’m always seeing photos that I love, so I’d say it’s whatever I happen to see or take that day. Today I saw a really cool photo of some camels chillin’ on a beach that my friend Alex took.

What is Culture Cycles and why did you start it?

Culture Cycles ( is a cycling blog I started with a couple good friends back in Vermont in 2010; Chris Norris and Hunt Manley.

The main goal of the website was to make it a catalyst for learning while keeping it related to something I love. I’d spent 11 years working in bike shops, raced road bikes for 5 years and have genuinely loved bicycles as far as I can remember. I wanted a way to share the type of cycling that I liked and connect with other like-minded people. The site has also allowed me to learn about WordPress, SEO, social media, brokering with advertisers, getting sponsors and planning/running events, among much more.

In October of the first year, we threw a scavenger hunt style race in Burlington on Halloween. We called it Monster Mash. There was such a good turnout and everyone had a damn good time, so we threw it again the following three years.

I’ve been running the site now for 6 years. I don’t have as much time or content out here like I used to in the states, but I’m keeping it moving. Back in Vermont you’ve got so much good terrain; you can go for a road ride, go mountain biking, take a weekend camping tour, crush a track bike around town and commute all year round with studs and fenders. Good riding is the biggest thing missing from my life here in Shanghai. I know “good riding” can be subjective, but I think the type of riding and terrain I prefer is elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong though, riding in this city can be a blast; right now I get my thrills smashing down Caoxi Lu during rush hour, trying to beat yesterday’s elapsed time on my commute.

In regards to the site, I’ve got some plans up my sleeve I’m slowly working on…so there’s definitely more consistent and original content in the pipeline.

culture cycles small

You are famous the world over for your manly chest hair and shirtless skateboarding. Who besides yourself is your favorite shirtless skateboarder?

Definitely Otto the bulldog. He skated through that human tunnel of 30 people! He also seemed really humble when they interviewed him afterwards.

Plans for 2016?

I’m hoping to travel a bit more this year and take some more weekend trips. I want to get out and do some camping too. I also plan to do a little redesign to Culture Cycles and make some of the older content more accessible. I’ve also got some other little side projects and ideas I’m working on. Other than that, I’m gonna keep skating, riding bikes and trying to document it!

From the Cam Critic: Thanks for taking the time to talk shop with us, Brian!

If you’ve read this far, you might like our interview with Steve Peer. Or visit our Canon Rebel T5 vs T5i comparison” or our Canon Rebel T5 vs T3i comparison.


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