Londonist Interviews: A Man Who Takes Photos Of Graffiti

By M@ Last edited 133 months ago
Londonist Interviews: A Man Who Takes Photos Of Graffiti

London Street Art 2 is the sequel to, well, erm, London Street Art. The pocket sized book chronicles some of the more interesting graffiti from the past year. We asked photographer Alex MacNaughton about his latest collection of images - many, like the shot above, show street art that has since vanished.

Warning: Some readers may find his comments about Flickr disturbing.

There's no 'about the author' on the book, so tell us a bit about yourself.

I have been working as a photographer for 15 years, mainly for newspapers. I started out covering the anti-road movement of the mid 90’s.

Ever written graffiti yourself, or do you stick to chronicling it?

Never. I have no artistic ability and I would be too worried about being arrested.

How do you think the London scene compares to that of other international cities?

I have only seen work from other countries on the web and to my eye it’s hard to see city or country styles. As there is so much street art on the web I guess there is a lot of cross-fertilisation of styles.


Do you join in with online resources, such as the London street art groups on Flickr?

You’re talking to someone who doesn’t even have a Facebook account. I find Flickr weird. Why do people put up all these photos – what is it all about? More to the point, why do people look at them? Flickr, like most of the web, suffers from no editing. It is part of the growing cult of the amateur.

Playing devil's advocate here...your book profits from celebrating what is essentially an illegal activity. Care to justify that?

You’re quite right. I do sometimes have a moral dilemma about the work I photograph for the books. In some ways I’m photographing criminal damage. I would never photograph work which had been done on trains, buses or on track sides etc. In a way, people who do street art are inflicting their art on everyone who is walking past, but you could say the same about advertising hoardings. I guess I can’t justify people doing street art: it is up to the people who do the art to justify their work.

I can easily justify doing the books as being a historic record of a certain cultural time in London. No one can say how long the street art movement will last, so it is important to have a record of it.

The book understandably concentrates on the Shoreditch area - are there other parts of London you would you recommend as a hotbed of street art?

Shoreditch and Brick Lane are the main areas I know of. The only art which is spread over a lot of central London are the space invader mosaics. There are also the chewing gum miniature paintings in Muswell Hill Broadway.

Have you ever been sick on the Tube?

I once got Ebola at Charing Cross but it cleared up by the time I got off at Camden, which was lucky.

London Street Art 2 is published by Prestel. Image courtesy of Alex MacNaughton

Last Updated 02 October 2007