Berlin: Graffiti

After having spent several weeks in the fall of 2003 photographing in the streets of Berlin, I realized that many of my negatives foregrounded graffiti. I began to pay closer attention and discovered a treasure trove of material that kept me busy off and on for an entire year. In search of pieces that stand above the mindless scrawls and tags everywhere, I began to explore the city with the eyes of a would-be sprayer, squeezing through fences, climbing on scaffolds, skidding down railroad embankments, slogging through muddy no-man's-land. The best finds are works of art, the second best are just funny. What interests me most about them is how they intrude into, inhabit, and transform their surroundings. Vandalism or not, without these pieces, the city would be blander.
Photographs of graffiti are usually catalogs of pieces excised from their settings. What I am trying to do instead is show my finds as integral parts of the urban landscape, or perhaps show the urban landscape populated with images. It seems only natural to include some murals, posters, and stencils.
I am sometimes asked why I didn't photograph this series in color. The answer is that at the time I did all my printing in a black-and-white traditional darkroom where color was simply not an option. But I don't mind the constraint. Black-and-white lends coherence to the series that might have been harder to achieve in color.
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