Strange Attractions: Exploring Graffiti is about Language, Color, Youth, you

On and off for the past 14 years, I have been photographing graffiti on the walls of Connecticut. I have come to like all of it, though I used to be a fan of the big pieces only. I follow the tags--the quick scrawls of the writers' pen names--around a city and find myself seeing these places in new ways.

I follow railroad tracks and wander behind abandoned factories or through brownfields. I traipse along an interstate and dip deep into the woods to old bridges and who knows what. Very often I find myself in forgotten or neglected places where nature is busy reclaiming the space.

I might be in downtown Waterbury or Bridgeport, but I am nevertheless surrounded by weeds, wildflowers, elm trees struggling through the cracks in the sidewalk in an effort to touch the sun. I find myself in a big world that is strangely quiet even if it is downtown. I am in the middle of things yet so far away from activity that I am alone. Perhaps this is a second-hand sense of alienation; perhaps it is genuinely the experience of being in life. The walk is always a meditation, a complete taking in of the world around me.

I don't think about where I am going. I follow the tags. Some I know. Some writers I have met. Most are strangers to me. It doesn't really matter. In this world, our curiosity is equal and we need only show up to see and see more to find our place.

When I take out my camera, I take a good look at the wall--where it is, its size and texture, the stuff from which it is made. How old is the paint? I especially love old tags and pieces and murals. As the paint fades and peels and the surface of the wall comes through again, the story of graffiti reveals itself in a new way. The writer comes with his paint, covers a piece of the wall with a name he has chosen for himself formed from letters he has created in his mind, and walks away. Day after day, people who see the piece are connected to each other by this single experience, whether they know it or not. The artist has stepped into the river of all their lives. He is a part of their world--he has colored it--yet he is gone. Here are the letters, the word, the colors. Some other writer might come and paint over the piece, but most likely not. Writers respect each other, by and large, and there's no need in cities filled with so many abandoned spaces to crowd each other.

As time passes, the paint ages, fades, flakes, and falls until we again have the wall. The process doesn't always take very long, and it reminds us that we are here for only a little while, that we wish to make a mark. It also reminds that whatever mark we make will be small. We will touch lives and change them, and all that we touch will change us, too.

Graffiti first and last is language and color and youth. It's about discovering where we are and who we are and who you are. I find this very beautiful.

Click here for the Strange Attractions: Exploring Graffiti blog.


  1. Anonymous5:29 AM

    I can see a beauty in the graffiti in this image.


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