A photoblog with pictures I've taken of graffiti and street art in Moscow (and anywhere else I happen to travel).

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Graffiti at its best

Lots of the graffiti that I photographed all winter has been painted over in the past couple of weeks. At first I thought it was just a spring-cleaning type of thing, now I realize (a friend pointed this out to me) that it's part of an effort by Moscow Mayor Luzhkov to clean up the city in time for all of the foreign dignitaries who will be visiting to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII on May 9th.

Luzhkov is acting in the best traditions of Potemkin, of course, but I actually don't mind seeing some of the writing that had become a familiar part of the landscape painted over. There are several reasons for this. One is that painting over graffiti just gives the writers a new, clean canvas to work with. For example, in the picture below, the "444" stencil was applied over a patch of paint that had been used to cover a "Zachem" tag (you can still see it peeking through):

Next door to the headquarters of the "Kultura"TV channel on Malaya Nikitskaya St., Apr 13.

Another reason is that it keeps the city's landscape and visual space fresh and dynamic - they can never seem to match the proper background paint color when they go to "abate" graffiti here in Moscow, so you get all sorts of interesting pink patches on yellow buildings and the like. Finally, I can't complain when graffiti is painted over because the ephemerality of it is one of the major reasons why I photograph street art in the first place.

All of the above notwithstanding, sometimes I see a wall and hope that it doesn't get painted over, at least not until many more people have had the chance to enjoy it. That's how I felt when I saw this:

On a utility building in the sprawling courtyard/wasteland between Spiridonovka Street and Granatnyi Pereulok, photographed around 7:15pm on April 12.

There was more interesting graf in this area (to be handled in a later post), but none that I liked as much as this one.

Comments? Props to the artist(s)?



Anonymous WhineyLimey said...

Inspired by your efforts I spent a day or so in Dnepropretrovsk, Ukr looking for graffiti to snap up. My problem wasn't the lack of available material but simply knowing where to begin; what was worthy and what was simply semi-literate scrawls and rants. How do you judge?
Im back in Dnepro next week so will try again...

12:29 AM

Blogger Lyndon said...

I think it's a matter of personal taste. Some people are more interested in political graffiti; some are more interested in pretty pictures; some are more interested in the methods used to create street art (e.g., stencils); and some just like to see and document a writer who has managed to "get up" in lots of locations with the same tag.

I like all of the above, which is why I always carry my camera and often delay and puzzle whoever I'm walking with by taking pictures. The problem I have is that I wind up with too many photographs and not enough time to sort out and upload the best or most suitable for inclusion on the blog. But I would rather have the problem of too many pictures and too many choices than take fewer pictures and later on remember the shot you didn't take.

My advice to you: get a bigger memory card and photograph everything you can in the time you have available - you can sort out what is good and what is not later on once they are on your computer and delete what you don't like if space is a consideration. My mother gave me best advice anyone ever gave me about photography: it takes lots and lots of pictures to get just a couple of good ones. This is less true when you are doing documentary photography of static items like graffiti, but I think it still applies in the sense that while you don't need to take many photos of the same subject/graffito, you should take photos of as many graffiti as you can, and then you'll be left with at least a few really excellent ones. That approach definitely works in Moscow because there is such a wide variety of graffiti to be photographed.

Anyway, I'm interested to see what you bring back from Ukraine.

1:12 AM

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12:30 AM


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