Danny Franzreb in front of a picture in his exhibition. All image rights belong to Christoph Bergmann.

An exhibition in the Ulm town hall shows Bitcoin from the ground. Danny Franzreb, professor of media design and multimedia production, traveled to miners in Europe and Russia to photograph the data centers. He won a prize with the book for the exhibition.

Most people know Ulm for its cathedral, which is the tallest church in the world. What is less known is that you can currently visit the largest photo exhibition on Bitcoin mining in Ulm. Exactly opposite the cathedral, in the town hall, literally in its shadow.

The exhibition runs until February eleventh. If you live near Ulm or are visiting the city to climb the highest church tower in the world, you should definitely go to the town hall, where you can admire the photos for free.

The photographer is Danny Franzreb. He is a professor of media design and multimedia production at Neu-Ulm University, where he teaches students how to design user interfaces and websites, but also gives photography courses. He became interested in Bitcoin around 2016, initially privately, but as is the case with most media professionals, at some point the boundaries between private and professional interest become blurred.

“At some point I became interested in what Bitcoin looks like as a system, not as a virtual network, but on earth, as an industry where it becomes tangible,” says the artist during a tour. So he wrote to numerous miners, in Germany and around the world. As a rule, he received rejections. “80 percent didn’t respond or declined. I was almost ready to throw in the towel.”

But persistence is worth it. Between summer 2021 and February 2022 he finally traveled to various Bitcoin mines, in the deep south of Bavaria, in Belgium and Holland, in the far north of Sweden and in the vastness of Russia. The result of the trips is an exhibition with around 40 photographs that impressively show what Bitcoin looks like on the ground. He received the German Photo Book Prize for the images and the accompanying photo book “Proof of Work”.

(c) Christoph Bergmann

The differences between Europe and Russia are particularly impressive. Danny was lucky enough to travel to Nadvoizy, near the border with Finland, and to Irkutsk, in the south-central of Siberia, just a few months before the war began. There he visited two large mining farms, which make European farms look like toy factories.

“Nadwoizy is a small town in the middle of nowhere. I was warned to stay inside at night because there are bears.” The mining farm was in a former aluminum smelter. It is supposedly the longest mining center in the world, 120 people and thousands of Asic miners work at 380 meters – that’s almost two and a half Ulm Minster.

The longest Bitcoin mine in the world. Image copyright by Danny Franzreb, provided for this article.

The disused aluminum smelters are still in the factory, and some of the garbage and debris from production is still lying around. It’s dirty, wild and – loud. The miners emit a buzzing sound about as loud as a passing truck, which hurts after a few minutes. That’s why everyone here wears earmuffs.

(c) Christoph Bergmann

The situation in Germany is completely different, much tidier and more manageable. In Simbach, Bavaria, Danny visited a miner who uses a private run-of-river power plant to mine ether with graphics cards. In Bad Kreuznach, some hobby miners have set up a GPU farm in their backyard. It is improvised and homemade, but also clean and perfected in detail.

In Hönigsberg, Austria, for example, Danny visited two entrepreneurs who are trying to use the heat from mining to heat homes. This is typical for mining in Europe: the scale is smaller, but they try to use all the energy used as efficiently as possible.

(c) Danny Franzreb

A slightly larger farm is in Eygelshoven in the Netherlands, where other computers are hosted in addition to Asic miners. This makes the miner less dependent on the whims of the Bitcoin market. In Tongeren in Belgium, a not-so-small farm mines electricity from biogas. “The owner told me that during the pandemic he mined the potatoes that McDonalds could no longer sell.”

(c) Christoph Bergmann

Back in Russia things are getting bigger again. In Irkutsk on Lake Baikal, Danny visited two farms. One of them was in a factory where drilling rods are still manufactured today for, of all things, gold prospectors. The electricity comes from the large dam near the city for three cents per kilowatt hour, which is why there is also a lot of private mining.

But Danny liked it best in Boden, in the north of Sweden. Electricity there is cheap and temperatures are cool, which makes it easier to operate data centers. Because of the good circumstances, four large miners have set up shop here in the nearby area, as have numerous large Internet companies, such as Meta.

(c) Christoph Bergmann

Genesis Mining had invited Danny to tour the farms in containers. At first he wasn’t allowed to take photographs because they had had bad experiences in the past. “Someone once took a photo of one of their mining farms, and then the picture appeared everywhere that was written badly about Bitcoin.” After discussions with the owners, Danny was able to convince them of the project.

Vertical farming, which a soil startup had linked to the farms, was also interesting. The waste heat from mining is used to heat a greenhouse in which lettuce grows.

After returning home, Danny had a better understanding of Bitcoin in a way. Not technically, not economically, but rather felt and human. “I didn’t realize how big it was before. A real industry.” But most importantly, he recognized what perhaps gives Bitcoin the most value: “Everyone I’ve met is excited. There are an incredible number of people who do mining for business, but above all out of conviction. They work with Bitcoin because they believe in it. That’s what makes Bitcoin sustainable and long-lasting.”

Source: https://bitcoinblog.de/2023/12/19/proof-of-work-im-stadthaus-ulm/

Leave a Reply