Thieves Suck! (for Kenneth Kao)

Many of you've probably heard that Kenneth Kao ( and Marlo Fisken were robbed yesterday (close to 16,000USD worth of equipment) at the train station in Valencia, Spain.  As their manager, I am starting this GoFundMe on their behalf, so that they can get back on their feet and keep creating (photos, videos, writing).  For those who didn't know, Ken's also a published author so on top of his photo and video gear being taken, his laptop is where he does his writing, and that is gone now, too.  A detailed list and serial numbers of the stolen items are listed at the bottom of this post.

Ken and Marlo have inspired me through their photos, video content, writing for years now and I'd love for them to get back to creating.  Any donation will help.  Below, I have taken text Marlo had written on Facebook to explain further what happened:

A thief waited for a moment when Ken turned his attention away from his camera bag. It was nearly touching Ken's feet, resting against his chair. A guy positioned himself at a table with his back to Ken's. As he stood up, he pulled the bag away, and quickly exited the restaurant, unnoticed.

In that bag was close to $16,000 worth of computer and camera equipment. Sadly, the photos and videos from one of the most impactful, blissful, immersive and educational weeks of their lives were still in that camera--and nowhere else.  While Ken is extremely diligent about backing things up in multiple locations immediately after shooting, the connection at their camp was not strong enough to perform a back-up.

When it was time to leave the cafe and board their train from Valencia to Madrid, the bag was gone. They asked to see the security camera footage, and there he was, the robber slyly planning to hurt people. He had on light colored baggy pants and had intricate designs shaved into his head. He'd probably seen Ken's camera when he was using it. He probably strategized for some time. But it only took a second, and we will never know all the details. He claimed what wasn't his and left.

When they discovered what happened, Ken quickly went online protected all his passwords, personal data, and backups remotely. Their friends helped however they could, and a kind stranger offered wifi connection and translation. They went to the police station and filed a report over the phone, but the police were not interested in assisting beyond taking notes. They didn't care that there's video of the man's face and the moment he did it.  And, they would not let Ken or Marlo record and take a photo of the footage showing the moment when the bag was taken.

In some ways, they felt it coming. Before that happened, Marlo was asked by someone who worked there to move her belongings away from me because it was blocking a door. She commented to the person next to her, "That's a good way to never see your stuff again." Instead, she pulled her bag closer.

Ken felt things too. He felt unsettled as he conversed. He knew something was off, and he was right.

The part that hurts most is the feeling that the thief stole from not just them, but from the 50+ people who were photographed in moments improvisational bliss at the Zouk retreat they were in Valencia attending. They wanted to give them those images.

Ken does have insurance on his gear, but if he is extremely lucky it will only cover about half of the value.

They're very grateful to have the resources to at least initiate the replacement process themselves. For many people around the world, the value of that stuff is more than a year of income, for others it's nothing. For Ken and Marlo, it means all photo and video projects are non-existent for a while, Ken can't work on his novel, and Marlo's stuck writing on her phone since her laptop coincidentally died at the exact same time as this incident.

Many of their friends have suggested that they launch a Go Fund Me and we all agree that shortening the time they're without their creative tools is a tremendous gift. With the collective (small) contributions of our network of friends, replacing the gear can be a shorter, less arduous process.

With that said, they are generally very uncomfortable asking for things as they are the type of people who prefer to earn what they have, so they will be offering some things in return for contributions.  Please note that workshops offered refer to those for sale on

Thank you all for reading and contributing (if you are able).  Keep your eyes on your belongings. Wrap your bag straps around your leg. And if you get a feeling something's off, turn it up and source it.

A note from Ken:
"Thank you all for the thoughtful messages, and for your consideration, shares, and contributions. During the hours following the incident, I felt so much support from friends both new and old, and it quickly took me into a place of acceptance and gratitude, rather than pain and anger.

A huge thanks to:
Chris Williams and Jill Roggen and who stayed behind and offered support in any way they could, and to Nadia Marini who also stayed behind and translated. To the many people who messaged with various supports and suggestions, and to the random stranger who offered me her wifi when I needed it most (Marlo’s computer decided to autoupdate, and crash in the middle of the update so it was unusable during this crisis situation).

I want to make clear that any gift is greatly appreciated, large or small, even if it’s a simple share or comment.

It was suggested that I could miraculously exceed my goal to simply replace my gear. If this should happen, the money will be spent on obtaining specific pieces of additional gear (lighting w/ dust/weather proofing and a microphone that can improve the audio to the flow movement related tutorials) that could make a huge difference in my ability to create content.

Again, thank you all so much. I feel incredibly blessed by the community. Letting go is tough, especially when I’ve put so much effort and love into particular projects that may be forever lost, but when I have friends who bond together and support me like this, I feel like I am the richest man alive.

Lastly, but definitely not least, I want to thank Marlo and Meredith for their incredible proactivity and support. Not once did they say anything negative, and they moved quickly to support me in such unimaginable ways.

Marlo, Babe, you really are my angel. I wish I could express to everyone just how special and beautiful you are, inside and out, but I’m pretty sure everyone already knows and sees it."

Stolen Items: Product Name: Macbook Pro Early 2015 (Top Specs)
Serial No: C02PD0ZGFVH8
Replacement cost (new Macbook Pro): ~3000 USD

D810 Camera Body
Serial Number: 3023925
Replacement cost: ~2500 USD, if body upgrade: ~3500 USD

AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED
Serial Number: 2000747 Replacement Cost: ~2400 (paid 2500 USD, plus recent repair at 700 USD, but not including that in the cost)
AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4 PF ED VR
Serial Number: 207425
Replacement Cost: ~2100 USD

Sigma 35mm Art 1.4
Serial Number: 51342916
Replacement Cost: ~950 USD

Laowa 12mm Dreamer
Serial Number: TBD
Replacement Cost: ~1000 USD

Memory Cards (OUCH): 3 CF Cards w/ images, 3 SD cards w/ images
Replacement Cost: ~1200 USD

Batteries: 4
Replacement Cost: ~200 USD (yeah, really)

Product Name: Mindshift Gear Rotation 180 Horizon Bag and Lens carry case
Replacement Cost: ~350 USD

Filters: B+W Polarizer, Breakthrough ND Filter 10 Stop, Tiffen Variable ND Filter
Replacement Cost: ~500 USD

Tripod head
Replacement Cost: ~100

Lifepower A2L Battery pack

Replacement Cost: ~350 USD

Peak Design Capture Camera Clips (2)
Replacement Cost: ~150 USD

Portable speaker Clearon
Replacement Cost: ~100

House and Car Keys
Replacement Cost: Uh Oh…

Photos, videos, and laptop data content/security, Memories for 50+ people, Novel Chapters and Work, personal notes, etc

Replacement Cost: A higher state of mind than I currently have, but am seeking to obtain

Many misc items of under 50 dollar values, photography maintenance gear and chargers and items.

Total: ~15600 USD
  • Kismet Kanatous  
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    • $40 
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    • $100 
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  • Anonymous 
    • $100 
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    • $50 
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Organizer and beneficiary

Meredith Greisman 
Boulder, CO
Kenneth Kao