Thursday, May 03, 2007

Street Art.

When I was fifteen, I went to Europe with my parents. I remember arriving at a formal garden in Spain, and being so disappointed that all of the sculptures had been vandalized, and covered with graffiti. I had wanted to take photos, but I realized that I wouldn't be able to get a single shot of a pristine sculpture. Looking back on it, I wonder: why did I want to?

Much like I've learned to photograph billboards, I've also grown to like taking photos of street art. By street art, I mean graffiti, tagging, and sticker art (am I using the term a little too inclusively?). I mainly take photographs of street art for the same reason I photograph billboards- I like the combination of flat graphic elements in a real setting in a flat photograph, I like the way that graphic design interacts with the real world, etc. There are, of course, some questions that this photography practice raises (example: can a photograph of art also be art?).

The above photographs are from Los Angeles, and below are some photographs of street art in Copenhagen, Cape Town and Beirut. Part of the reason I take these photographs is out of an appreciation for the street art itself. Beyond that, there's a graphic element to the photographs I like- especially in the below photo of Copenhagen, in which the arrow on the street echoes the shapes on the wall. I think another thing about street art that draws me is its living quality. This may be a ridiculous comparison, but it reminds me of San rock art. I remember reading that in some sites and on some rocks, they would find rock paintings spanning from different centuries. Though done centuries apart, the pieces were set in conversation with eachother- one artist would respond to the work of another, and change the meaning of the original. In a similar way, street art is often layered, and often set in conversation- both with the work of other artists, and also the building and neighborhood in which its done.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Cape Town, South Africa

Beirut, Lebanon

Copenhagen, Denmark


Erik said...

I often think of graffiti as rude and self-indulgent on the part of its perpetrators.

But it's all about location. In places like LA, it can complement the chaos... though I would prefer not to see defaced landmarks.

Outside in nature though, when someone has tagged a boulder or a tree, I get pretty upset about it. These are not cave paintings anymore. There aren't enough caves or rock walls to go around. A cactus doesn't need a date written on it with somebody's illegible name.

An overpass is okay with me, except when it says "Jesus Saves." I often see those when I'm stuck in traffic behind a fatal accident.

Xander said...

I definitely agree with your point about the scratched names on cacti and scrawled names on boulders. I definitely think that there is a difference (however tenuous) between street art and thoughtless tagging. -X