Karl was born in the Amsterdam red light district. After falling into one of the canals at the age of 6, he was nicknamed Flipper after the dolphin in the 1964 TV-series. Due to violence and abuse at home he spent his early youth in boarding schools and, after frequently running away from those, his teenage years in the Amsterdam nightlife amidst prostitutes, drugs and crime. It was only as an adult that Karl completely turned his life around for the better. With no education whatsoever he started as a bus cleaner with a Dutch broadcaster in the early ’80s and slowly worked his way up from there. Working at day and studying at night he eventually became production assistant, taught himself how to be a video editor, and finally turned succesful director and producer, working on some of Holland’s biggest productions with Joop van den Ende. In subsequent years Hammer was involved with the introduction of private radio and TV RTL in the Netherlands and Belgium, owned a trucker radio station and was advisor to media moguls such as Leo Kirch (Kirch Gruppe).
After his extensive career in radio and TV, Hammer turned to investigative journalism and started publishing as such in 2006. His first book revealed the insider story of one of the most bizarre art thefts in history, that of a panel of Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece. The book was published in various countries and languages. Subsequent books were specifically aimed at the Dutch market and not translated into other languages. In 2012, however, Hammer published a controversial book, The hunt for the Nazi Gold, secrets of the March Impromptu Code revealed. It describes an investigation into a document, drafted by Martin Bormann at the end of World War II, that allegedly contained directions to locate Hitler’s personal diamonds and a stash of Nazi gold. Hammer’s book received worldwide attention and for some time Karl and a colleague, Leo Giessen, led various expeditions, mostly near Mittenwald. Thus far (December 2016) the expeditions remain unsuccessful and no diamonds or gold have been retrieved. In October 2015 Karl published his latest book “De Zetel van Franciscus” (The Seat of Francis), which documents the fraud surrounding the relics of one of the most important saints that ever lived; Saint Francis.
Next to his work as book author, Hammer is an accomplished art photographer who uses his photography to tell stories that are laden with symbolism and hidden messages. His work has a fast growing fan base that appreciates his narrative art, his sense of aesthetics and his use of pastel-like colors. The way in which Karl frequently uses light and shadows compares to the style of the old master painters and thus his art often walks a thin line between a classical painting and a modern photograph. This is emphasized by the fact that his art work is only available on museum quality German Etching Paper with its velvety character. Dutch art curator Marcel Salome of Salome Artventure says about Karl: “As curator of Dreamscapes I’m always searching for new art and I happened upon the art photography of Karl Hammer. His artworks intrigue because of the atmosphere that he realizes in his work but also through their narrative qualities. The often beautiful male and female models distract you from hidden messages in the work that the viewer often doesn’t capture on first viewing.”