Posterboy Arrest: Photographer Jim Kiernan’s Account

Photo by Jim Kiernan
Work by Posterboy, Ellis G., and Aakash Nihalani. Photo by Jim Kiernan

Yesterday The Gothamist reported that Posterboy was arrested on Friday night. Jim Kiernan, who was supposed to be photographing Posterboy on Friday, has been kind enough to give us his take on what happened.

The back story is that I started as a writer way back in the day.  I dropped that a long time ago but never lost interest in all things street-related.  I’m fully digging the Street Art movement that’s popped up in earnest over the last few years.  I have many favorite artists but Poster Boy just really struck a chord with me.  In my opinion he’s the latest branch of the family tree that begat Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.  For real, I think he’s that talented.

Anyway I’m always documenting the underground.  For many years I videotaped bands (mainly Punk Rock stuff but other genres as well).  Mayor Guilani effectively snuffed out many of the venues that I used to shoot in and the NYC real estate market killed most of the rest.  So what to do?  Well, I picked up a still camera and have made that my thing for the last several years.  Of course I’m still all about the underground, the offbeat, the artistic.  So I decided to start shooting street art.  Not all that original but fun and visual and very satisfying.  I started seeing Poster Boy’s stuff underground and didn’t know who he was.  After researching a bit I figured out who he was and started following him.

Long story short I contacted him and asked him if he was down for me to tag along and shoot while he did his thing.  I sent him a few shots from a session I did with Chico L.E.S., an old school Lower East Side NYC graf muralist.  He dug my stuff and we were supposed to hook up some time in February.  Yesterday afternoon at around 3:30 my phone rings.  I usually always screen everybody but I manage a literary fiction author on the side named Mike Guinzburg and I thought the number was Mike’s.  He goes “you know who this is, right?” and I said yeah,  Mike.  “Nope, it’s Poster Boy man.  I’m doing a collaboration with Ellis G., (the chalk artist) and Aakash for a ‘‘ benefit.  Can you grab your cameras and get down here in about an hour?”

Well, the bad news was that I was at work and my cameras were at home.  I told him I’m try to borrow a camera and get down there.  He gave me the cross streets and told me to call him when I was in the area.  I couldn’t get my hands on a decent camera so I said fuck, bailed from work, bolted home and grabbed my gear.  By the time I got downtown it was about 6:30 give or take.  I tried calling him but got voice mail.  Left a message, said fuck it and started walking around shooting street art (I was one block from where Banksy just put up on of his three big NYC full building pieces and there’s a ton of good spots that get hit).  I walked around shooting for about an hour, called him again, left another message and then kept on shooting on the streets.

About half an hour later, I was freezing my ass off and my cell phone battery was about to die.  I ducked into an ATM on the corner to get warm and to call him one last time.  Again, voice mail.  I told him I was going to bail and that we’d have to hook up next time.  BUT, when I walked outside and there were a bunch of Ellis G. pieces on the sidewalk, including the exact address of the event (which I hadn’t known).  While I was on the phone leaving Poster Boy a message telling him I was bailing, Ellis G. was hitting the sidewalk.  If that’s not a sign I don’t know what is.  Streets are talking, indeed.

So I went to this loft space on the 5th floor.  There were collaborations and other pieces on the walls and a DJ spinning.  I grabbed a drink and started shooting.  Ellis G. came up to me to ask me who I was shooting for and I told him I was supposed to meet up with Poster Boy, etc.  That’s when I found out he got popped.  The cops had been trying to track him down for a while I guess and his name was on the benefit flyer and said he would be in attendance.  They had a plainclothes cop on the street and that’s who nabbed him.  Talk about bullshit.  We’ve got major shit going down on the streets in NYC every day and THIS is what the cops are spending their time on?  Unreal.  It was definitely a bummer but Ellis and Aakash got right to work throwing up a tribute collabo for Poster Boy.

I was talking with PB’s cousin for much of the night and there was no update on his case or his bail or anything.  I offered to personally post bail on him but we couldn’t get any info.  I still don’t know what’s going on but I’m sure that all of this is just a speed bump.  No way are the cops going to keep Poster Boy down.  He’s got all of the right ideas and some of the purest artistic intentions I’ve seen so I’m sure we’ll be hearing from him again soon.

Thanks to Jim Kiernan for his help and for the photo at the top of this post. Hopefully Posterboy will be back out on the streets soon.