Graffiti evokes strong feelings in people. Many feel that it is solely an act of vandalism and has no intrinsic value and many feel that it is art and an important form of self-expression. I do not condone vandalism but I find graffiti very interesting. What makes a person feel compelled to “tag” things in a seemingly random fashion? Is it gang-related or simply self-expression gone large?
The great photographer Alfred Stieglitz stated, “The goal of art was the vital expression of self.” If what Mr. Stieglitz said is correct, then it follows that graffiti is art.
I have a small collection of graffiti in my photo files almost none of which are the large colorful displays one sees on train cars and city walls. What attracts me are the simple words. Sometimes it is the pure angst. A graffiti I found in Valencia, Spain says, “Estoy solo y solo estoy” (“I am alone and alone am I”). One I found in Barre, Vermont simply asks, “got grief?” Sometimes, it’s the naïve hope that moves me, like a couple found in Northampton, Massachusetts: “Let us love us” and “Let’s recreate the world.” Or just the plain randomness of “Wear a red hat I will too” makes me just wonder why.
Here is some of my graffiti collection…