Tuesday, November 16, 2010


click photos to enlarge
I feel about graffiti in pretty much the same way that I do about using the motorcycle as a form of transport - it's not for me, but when it's used properly it's admirable. Unfortunately both are often seen in an anti-social context. What do I mean by that? Well, the motorcycle is a relatively efficient vehicle, and for those that enjoy such things, a pleasurable form of transport. Regrettably however, a lot of motorcyclists see their machines as an expression of their perception of manhood and consequently ride them too quickly and too noisily. The result is far more deaths of motorbike riders (and people they crash into) than would otherwise be the case.

Similarly, graffiti art can look great, a joyful expression of the contrasting teenage qualities of individuality and clannishness (if such a word exists!), something that can enliven a dull location with ever changing line and colour. But, too often the art is sprayed on the property of someone who hasn't asked for it, or is in the form of elaborate and repeated "tags", also where it isn't wanted. This anti-social application of the art gives graffitists a bad name. However, where it is practiced with the consent of the owner - as under the National Theatre on London's South Bank, or the BMX and skateboard ramps in the place noted in the photographs - it can be great fun.

The three photographs above are contrasting examples from that Lincolnshire location. I like the first one for the shapes of the large, decorative, overlapping letters, the second for the colour and the qualities of the figurative drawing, and the third for the simplicity of the concept (a repeated, overlapping  "tag") as well as its strongly contrasting colours. One of the pleasures of graffiti in a location such as this where it is welcomed is that if I visit again next year the art on view is likely to be completely different.

One last thought. Graffiti has come to mean the sort of stuff in these photographs. It wasn't always so. It used to mean writing on walls and other places. Graffiti has been found in Pompeii, and I often see it carved on medieval church tombs by seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century vandals. When I was young it was often applied to funny lines of this sort: "I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous" or "I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not so sure". Happy days.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

First photo
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On