street art photography

beyond-graffiti

Since we first discovered Karin du Maire‘s Instagram account, we’ve been fans of her hugely impressive documentation of street art and graffiti. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with her.

We love your documentation of the current street art and graffiti scene – in NYC and in your travels. When did you first turn your lens to urban culture, particularly street art?  

As a travel photographer, I developed a strong interest in urban culture in 2006 while in Rio de Janeiro photographing Passinho dancers in the city’s favelas. At about that time, I started paying more attention to the background, and I began using abandoned buildings as settings. And back here in NYC, I often combined my visits to MoMA PS1 in Long Island City with 5Pointz, where I particularly loved photographing B-boy battles.

meres-gaffiti-and-hip-hop-5pointz-nyc

Are you formally trained as a photographer?

No, I studied Business, and I earned an MBA degree from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. But I’ve taken courses in photography at SVA and I’ve participated in B&H’s Event Space workshops. I also ran a Twitter chat focusing on photography.

When did you first become interested in photography? 

It was a passion of mine in the late 80’s and early 90’s. And then in the late 90’s, I began getting paid assignments as a travel photographer.

You’ve photographed dozens of artists at work. How have they responded to you?

In general, they’ve been very welcoming. They appreciate my photography skills and the exposure that I offer them. I always ask for permission first, and I share my photos with them. Many artists have become my friends, and it is fun to chat and watch them paint.

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What are some of the challenges that you face in the work you are now doing?

Keeping up with all that is happening on the streets; wanting to capture an image when the light is wrong or when there are cars in the way, and trying to help artists by arranging walls for them.

What — would you say — is your current mission?

There is an intrinsic reward in what I am doing – documenting creativity and helping artists grow. And coming from a travel photography background, I would like to get sponsored to photograph street art in different places.

Do you have any particularly memorable experiences from your work here in NYC?

Watching Nychos paint at Coney Art Walls – his amazing raw energy as he sketched freehand.

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Any favorite cities?

Rio de Janeiro and London are among my favorites.

Any proud accomplishments from documenting art on the streets?

My proudest accomplishments generally involve capturing someone in the right place at the right time. It’s the split second that makes the difference! I was so happy, for example, to meet and photograph Sebas Rivas from Córdoba in Argentina while he was sitting aside, off on his own — selling his delightful artwork – amidst all the activity at Art Basel in Miami last year.

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We’ve noticed that you use your iPhone as opposed to a standard camera to capture images.

Yes. I use the iPhone to photograph just about everything that is not an assignment. Most cameras these days are good. What matters is not the camera – but the eye of the photographer… the composition, the light, the moment. In addition, iPhones are less intimidating than huge cameras. And the entire process is shorter, as I have very little editing to do.

What’s ahead for you?

I’m now off to Art Basel in Miami and I am planning to return soon to Cuba, where there is a burgeoning street art scene.

Where do you think street art and graffiti are headed?

Street art will continue to beautify our cities. It will continue to become more mainstream, and there will be more opportunities for artists. I also suspect that there will be more art activism.

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Thank you! And do keep on doing what you are doing! We love it!

Images

1. Beyond on LIC rooftop

2. Meres mural in background with b-boys at 5Pointz in LIC

3. Icy and Sot in Astoria with the Welling Court Mural Project

4. Nychos at work for Coney Art Walls with Martha Cooper with camera

5. Sebas Rivas in Miami

6. Ces photographing his mural at Broadway Junction

All images © Karin du Maire

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with Tara Murray

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el-nino-de-las-pinturas-street-art-nyc

For the past several years, Queens-based photographer Raphael Gonzalez aka Zurbaran1 has been creating intriguing, visually dynamic images of street art, often focusing on the artists at work.  Within the past year, his photos have made their way into several shows including his first solo exhibit, The Hand of An Artist. He has also been featured in Yoav Litvin‘s blog, 2createart. I recently had the opportunity to meet up with him.

I love what you are doing! When did you first begin to photograph NYC’s street art and graffiti?

About four years ago.

ecb-street-art-bushwick-nyc

What inspired you to do so? 

Several years ago, my daughter visited Berlin and returned home incredibly excited about the street art she had seen there. Her enthusiasm, along with the photos that she showed me, inspired me to check out what was happening on the streets of NYC. And I first became serious about it all in October, 2013 when Banksy hit NYC with his month-long day residency Better Out Than In.

Within the few years that you’ve been shooting street art, you seem to have established friendships with many of the street artists you photograph.  Can you tell us something about that?

The very first street artist I met was Alice Mizrachi. I was standing in front of her mural at Welling Court when she noticed me. She was living right there at the time, and — almost at once — came out in her pajamas to speak to me! I was so impressed by her intelligence and craft. I photographed her in front of her mural, and we struck up a friendship right then.  She was the first street artist I photographed and spoke to. Since that day, I’ve become friends with many more.

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You’ve been photographing many artists as they work. How have they responded to this? Are they open to it?

The response has been great! And when I share the photos I’ve taken with them, they are so appreciative.

That’s great! As street art is so ephemeral by nature, it’s so important to document it. And I’m a huge fan of artful photographers who document the process. I notice that you’ve focused quite a bit on the artists’ hands.

Yes, I like observing their hands in action. And photographing hands gives me a chance to use my long lens which I love doing!

fanakapan-street-art-portrait-nyc

And you’ve also begun collaborating with some of the street artists whose works you photograph. How do you go about engaging them?

Yes! I love collaborating. The process makes me think a little differently, and the artists have been wonderful.  Among them are FumeroGizTrans1NoirCity Kitty. Some I’ve approached, and others have approached me.

What are some of the challenges that you face in seeing your projects through?

There’s never enough time. And there are so many artists! Going through all the photos that I take and then editing them is a lengthy, time-consuming process.

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How has the scene changed since you first started photographing street art?

There are fewer walls, and street art has become more commercial. And it seems that in the past few years, street artists have achieved celebrity status. It’s almost like they are the new rock stars!

What’s ahead for you?

I would like to engage in more collaborations…different in nature than the usual ones!

futura-street-art-nyc

I look forward to seeing them all, and I will be keeping up with you — in the meantime — via your Instagram!

All photos © Raphael Gonzalez aka Zurbaran1; interivew conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Images

1. El Niño de las Pinturas, Brooklyn Is the Future, Brownsville

2. Hendrik Beikirch aka ECB, Bushwick

3. Dasic Fernandez, Welling Court Mural Project

4. Fanakapan, Bushwick Collective

5. Noir, as featured in Raphael Gonzalez‘s solo show at Fatty’s in Astoria, Queens

6. Futura, Bushwick Collective

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