Parasites and magnets: a story about street art and photography


I am bored. In fact, I am not that bored, I am more disillusioned. But why?

Firstly I am slightly fed up of seeing a lack of creativity in much of the street art I am currently viewing in London, hence these photos of interesting pieces by Monkey and the ATG Crew in Hvar, Croatia I snapped whilst on holiday a couple of months ago. It may just be that I am looking in the wrong places, and don’t get me wrong, there are a huge amount of artists living and working in London that I admire, but it seems I keep seeing the same dull work from many others.


But that is not quite why I am writing. It is a second point that has caused me to become even more disillusioned. Money makes the world go around and money always seeps into everything eventually, street art included. This is not necessarily a bad thing, artists need money to keep doing what they are doing in addition to feeding and clothing themselves, but at the same time money brings parasites.

These parasites, as I like to call them, come in various forms and varieties. You have flippers, forgers, and reclaimers, who just steal street art off the street to sell. Then there are others, such as agents, who I will never understand really. An agent, really?


But there seems to be a final parasite that is increasing in numbers, and that’s the photographer. Actually photographer is a bad term to use, but they call themselves that so, so be it. A photographer to me is someone that is creative, an artist with a camera. Someone who sees a shot, frames it, and shoots it. Taking light, composition, angle and various other important aspects into account. A good photographer (at this point note Mark Rigney, Sandra Butterfly, NoLionsinEngland, RomanyWG, HowAboutNo, Martha Cooper, Ian Cox et al), makes an image come to life in a photo. They add something to a picture.

I see photographers as important for a couple of reasons, firstly as I have previously alluded to, they are artists in their own right and I am all for creative people who have something interesting to exhibit. But secondly, and more importantly to an extent, is their ability to document. Martha Cooper is the prime example and others have followed suit. My pictures in this post are a documentation of street art in Croatia and this blog is a documentation of street art from around the world. In essence it becomes a window to history and that’s why I have a penchant for photography.


Yet over the last two weeks in particular, and over the last few weeks, months and years in general, I have become disillusioned. In no small part because of the increasing numbers of people printing Banksy images onto canvas and selling them at every market in London, but more recently by photographers tapping into the same practice.

Over the last two weekends I have attended two outdoor art events. One in Brixton, and one near Old Street. Both these events have included some fantastic, talented artists, and in particular, Brixton had a few great photographers who’s work I really admired. But both have also had those types of photographers who steal others’ creativity.


Poor photos are one thing, but couple that with a market stall, price labels, and in one case fridge magnets and Oyster card holders and you have a recipe for disaster. Gone is the creativity and the innovation of a good photographer or even if the documentation that the mediocre photographer can provide. All you are left with is poor photos, bad cropping and product.

There has been a recent breakthrough on this subject with regard to Wooster Collective working their magic to ensure than offers commission to artists and show artists the photos they are hoping to use before they start selling them. This really is a massive step in ensuring that companies who deal in wall art act in a moral manner, but as RJ mentioned in his post on the subject, this is far from a complete problem solver.

In one of the cases I came across, I asked if the photographer had got permission from the artists. He said yes of course, the majority had agreed and that they are extremely grateful for their work getting promoted.

I would have loved to have been there when the guy asked Banksy, Eine, Phlegm, Mr. Brainwash, Os Gemeos and others if he could use their images to make money for himself. I hardly believe they are happy that others are making financial gains without paying any dues, in this case commission.

At a time when there are so many good artists releasing high quality affordable screen prints and even originals, it annoys me that some members of the general public are paying out sums of money for awful images. The stall at the street party near Old Street always had a large crowd around it with people paying good money for pictures they could have taken themselves and printed at home.

The moral of this story is that if you are reading this thinking about lining the pockets of one of these so called photographers, then I urge you to invest that money in your own camera, get outside and take some photos yourself. And if you need a bit of training then get yourself along to one of NoLions photography workshops if he organises a few more soon, fingers crossed he does, as they were very well received. Be creative, don’t let others steal what in essence is meant to be free art for all to enjoy.

This problem is not going to disappear completely, but you can all do your bit by not handing your money over to these parasitic photographers, and don’t let your mates do it either. In fact, I believe this is where street art tours come into their own as they get the general public into places where they can take their own documentary images. It is summer, so get yourself outside, walk around, see what turns your head, and just be creative.


Photos all by Shower. Not purchased in any way. Taken himself whilst on holiday in Hvar, Croatia. And they will not be printed onto magnets any time soon!

Tim Hans shoots… James Jessop


Graffiti geek (and we mean that in the best way) and fine artist James Jessop met with Tim Hans earlier this year for our “Tim Hans shoots…” series. Tom Pearson interviewed Jessop.

Tom: Hi James, I wanted to start by going back to school and your trained painting roots. You attended Coventry University and the Royal College of Art, and now have BA Hons and MA degrees to your name, how do you believe this teaching developed you as an artist?

James: That’s a good first question, and answering it will make a huge interview just by itself, as history, obsession and dedication to a subculture all mean a lot to me.

My actual trained painting roots began, not in art school as a student, but back in the old school, by English standards use of that word, in the first UK wave of the Hip Hop era. Way back in 1985 I was hearing Chuck Chill out live giving the New York City latest live on Capital FM and this is where it all began.

Then on Friday 18th April 1986 I was given Subway Art for my 12th birthday. From that point, every day, I would make at least one A4 transcription drawing, paper pieces or outlines whatever you want to call them, coloured in felt tips taken directly from its pages. I still have most of the drawings. For the whole of 1987 as a thirteen year old I continued this practice, during school lunch break and all evening whilst at home listening to Eric B and KRS 1.

In the summer of ’87 Henry Chafant and James Prigoff’s Spray Can Art came out. This was like the new testament. From then I drew from that to the sounds of Public Enemy. That same year I met Robbo, Dozez WRH, Set3, Fura and Up2, and got their hits in my black book and these tags became my tag style blue prints.

When I turned 14 I was still on it, drawing every day, shaping letters and forming pieces spelling different words in different styles with mixed mediums. I also did my first solo trackside in racked car paint. Before that, I’d only worked as an apprentice for my older friend Mark Cheesman, filling in, and looking out. In the summer of 1988 I got obsessed with street skateboarding and slowed down with the graffiti daily paper pieces.

But a year later, in 1989 I would tag up whenever I got the opportunity whilst skating, in Milton Keynes, Harrow in London, and places like that, it was Jessop on tour. I know for a fact I was the first tagger in Milton Keynes. I’d be rolling then pull out my Posca, Pentel or my 30mm with meltonium shoe dye, I’d hit those marble subways then skate off again. Pure rebellious energy to the max. I remember some skaters telling me not to tag but they then later became taggers themselves. Back then in the late 1980’s we called it tagging and would say ‘have you seen my new tag’ or my ‘tag style’. Back then we never said ‘hand style’.

In 1990, when I turned 16, I was accepted on a full-time two year B-Tec general art and design course in Luton. I had to take two buses to college, and two home. I hit them all. Art all day, bombing on the way home, street skating every evening, living the life. It was then I read Keith Haring’s authorised biography and saw how he used the street art to inspire his gallery shows, and from then I specialised in painting on canvas.

During my B-Tec in 1992 I was accepted to and study at Coventry University BA in Fine Art. I started by degree at the age of 18 at which point I’d already been developing as an artist for 6 years. Going to Coventry was amazing as I no longer had to live with my parents, who wouldn’t let me keep spray paint in the house or go out all hours. Now it was on, any time any hour. Being an art student was great cover for being a full-time graffiti writer outside of college hours. I was the new Coventry King bombing prolifically and street skateboarding most nights, simply jamming out .

In my the first year at Coventry I finally saw Style Wars, which I’d never managed to catch before. The library also had the 1983 catalogue Graffiti Kings from Rotterdam, so I took all this in, I carefully cut out the full page advert for a show at Kladfled Perry Gallery, New York, from Art Forum. The show featured New York subway masters; Lee, Futura 2000, Daze, Lady Pink and Crash doing paintings on canvas and this gave me my biggest inspiration and hope.

In the second year of my degree I started to keep a closer eye on current painters in the UK gallery scene, such as Fiona Rae and Peter Doig, whose work I saw when the college took us all up to Liverpool and to London when Doig was up for the Turner prize. Being at art school was starting to have a big influence in my direction by exposing my eyes to these artists, who otherwise I would have over looked. Fiona Rae had the boogie down Bronx energy in her paintings back then, even though she was a London Gold Smiths college graduate. I was very influenced by her early 90’s abstracts and this inspired me to paint my own on a large scale. In my third year I applied to the Royal College of Art but didn’t get an interview. My degree final show was 5 large bright abstract canvases, very bold and bright with tagging rhythms in areas.

After graduating in 1995 I moved straight in to a open plan studio in Coventry City Centre and carried on painting. My goal and dream was to get into the Royal College of Art to study an MA in Painting. In 1997, after a second interview, they offered me a place and I moved to York Way in London. I would get the tube in from Caledonian Road daily, on the Piccadilly line to Gloucester Road, then skateboard up to the College. At this time Zonk DDS was the most prolific all city train and street writer with great style as well.

The Royal college was amazing. In the first year you would have Chris Ofili and Peter Doig coming round hanging out, talking about your work and their own. In the second year Ofili won the 1998 Turner prize, the first painter since 1986, and I only saw him once after that, but Doig became my personal tutor and remained a huge influence throughout my career.

Continue reading “Tim Hans shoots… James Jessop”

Tim Hans shoots… Word To Mother

Word to Mother 1

While on a recent visit to London, Tim Hans photographed with seven artists for our continuing series of photo-portraits by Tim. This week, we have Tim’s photographs of Word To Mother, along with an interview by Shower.

Also, Word To Mother has been as he puts it ‘analogue’ since we met him. In a small attempt to contribute to the digital world, he has got himself an instagram. Go follow him for regular updates on his work – @wordtomother.

Shower: I expect you have been asked this on numerous occasions but where did the name Word to Mother originate?

Word To Mother: It was never supposed to be a name. I started writing Word To Mother next to my pieces in about 2003…I like the expression, it’s affirmation of the Mother’s and classic Hip Hop phraseology, perfect! Illmatic is also one of my favourite albums so I guess that had a part to play in it all.

I started using Word To Mother as a name when I wanted to make a distinction between the fine art I was producing and everything else. I like the anonymity a pseudonym allows, it means the art is at the forefront and I am somewhere in the background.

S: Your style is very distinctive, your characters tend to be warm and welcoming with a strange complexity, and are usually found juxtaposed against stylised typography. What influences you and this style?

WTM: I have never knowingly tried to construct a style, it’s an ongoing process that is continually changing…I just try and do me, not look at what others are doing for inspiration, but to outside sources; architecture, sign writing, vintage cartoons, nature…

My strongest works are produced when I’m not thinking about what I’m doing, the images almost draw themselves. You can see by the weight of line in my sketches when a drawing is going to work. If the line is heavy then I’m not chilled and the drawing is forced. The best stuff is super fine and is like a subconscious wandering of thoughts.

S: On the subject of characters, Disney and other cartoon varieties feature regularly, which is your favourite and why?

WTM: I don’t have one favourite and the list is endless so let me just give you my starting five:

Early Mickey Mouse

Sponge Bob

Marvin The Martian

Big Bad Wolf (early Disney)

Ren and Stimpy

S: Do the influences differ between your gallery work and outdoors?

WTM: I have no interest in producing what I do indoors, outdoors. They are two separate things to me.

S: Which came first, indoors or out? Which do you prefer and what keeps you painting outside?

WTM: I’ve always drawn, so working inside came first. Working outside started with graffiti in the late 90’s. If I’m painting outside it has to be fun, and trying to replicate what I do in the gallery, outside, just stresses me out. If I’m painting outside it’s going to be letters but I don’t refer to myself as a writer or street artist, just an artist.

Word to Mother 2

S: If I was describing your art I would say that much of it is illustrative. Would you agree? And have you ever had any professional training to achieve this style or are you self taught?

WTM: I love to draw so I would agree that my work is rooted in illustration. I studied illustration and animation 3 years full time, before then I was like every other small town youth that thinks they can draw…I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. Those 3 years were imperative in deconstructing and rebuilding my drawing. I wouldn’t say that anyone taught me how to draw but that course guided me in the right direction.

S: The first thing that strikes me when I look at one of your pieces is the exceptional level of detail. How do you go about starting a painting to achieve this depth?

WTM: I’m always intimidated by a blank surface, so I begin with loose mark making and tags to create a base to work on. Then it is just a case of building layers and layers of tones, pattern, characters, text etc until the piece comes to life.

S: Your art tends to be found adorning weathered surfaces using a range of mediums – wood, brick, plaster, spray cans or paint brushes. Do you find each piece is dictated by the surface you paint onto or do you look for surfaces with the content in mind?

WTM: I love weathered objects, stuff that is decaying and has existed with another purpose for years, then adding your story to it. When I am painting on these types of surfaces, I try to retain as much of the existing qualities as possible. I’m always on the lookout for those little gems to hoard in my studio. Some stuff I get way too precious about, I have objects and panels that I have had for 6 years that are still yet to be worked on as they are so beautiful already…this is now becoming a problem as I am relocating to a much smaller studio and am going to have to let go of a lot of things. Also, the cost of shipping heavy objects overseas is crippling financially. As a result, my new works are going to be on canvas…you have to adapt with the times…this recession is bullshit.

S: In some of your pieces I have seen nods of appreciation to fellow artists; Sickboy, Ronzo and Roids come to mind, and you have also worked in collaboration with Sickboy on a few projects. Do you enjoy collaborative work and do you feel it brings anything additional to your solo pieces?

WTM: I know the painting you are talking about, it had a section of tags in it which shouted out a few of the homies…it was based on the gallery front on Redchurch street where they buff over all the tags in the same colour…

In terms of collaborating, I have to work with friends. I’m a perfectionist so it has to be a certain way….Sickboy and I moved to London at the same time and were introduced by our friend Stella Dore. We are complete opposites but somehow it works. I am a massive fan of what he does and we both love the same things visually. Whenever we work together it is a succession of sleepless nights and too many jazz woodbines but we always laugh ’til it hurts and end up with something we’re proud of.

S: I rather enjoyed your recent edition of ‘fuck you, pay me’ baseball bats? Is there a hidden story of personal experience?

WTM: A decade of self employment in the creative industry.

S: You seem to be a big fan of tattoos. Are any of yours self designed or influenced by other artists?

WTM: I love tattoos and am lucky enough to own work by Thomas Hooper, Saira Hunjan, Josh Sutterby and Frank Carter to name a few.

T: Do you tattoo others yourself? If not, then would you ever consider a change of career?

WTM: I have been known to tattoo friends but I am certainly not a tattooer. If I wasn’t painting I would consider it, I think it’s a great career for someone that loves to draw. If I were to do it I would stop making art and concentrate on it fully, it is an ancient craft that demands a huge amount of respect.

S: Finally, have you got any specific plans for the future?

As I mentioned I am in the process of moving from my enormous studio to a much smaller space. It’s a shame as I am having to part with a lot of things that I have accumulated over the years…Once that is done I am going to be concentrating all of my energies on making my largest paintings to date for my upcoming show in the incredible new White Walls Gallery space in San Francisco. I’m hoping to work with the incredible Angelino Milano again this year on a bespoke run of screen prints. I haven’t shown in London for a couple of years so 2014 will see another solo show with the StolenSpace family… Other than that I’ll be drawing as usual.

Photos by Tim Hans

Ripo at White Walls

Vintage typography with a sarcastic edge is perhaps the best way to describe Max ‘Ripo’ Rippon‘s art. Stylish and elaborately drawn, single words or short phrases seek to maximise the aesthetics of both the letters and the textured surfaces onto which they are drawn. Quirky and highly interesting, Ripo has become one of my favourite artists around at the moment.

Now based in Barcelona, Ripo returns to his country of birth for a solo show, ‘Signs, Fines, & Cheap Wines‘, at White Walls Gallery in San Francisco. Judging by these preview shots, this show is going to be fantastic and well worth viewing in person. The opening party is on Thursday 9th August and remains open until 1st September.

More after the jump… Continue reading “Ripo at White Walls”

Meggs at White Walls

With an interest in superheros and comic book narratives, Meggs delves into the world of fantasy tales to create his latest show, Truth in Myth, opening this Saturday at White Walls in San Francisco.

The show is comprised of a collection of paintings, collages, and sculptures, in which Meggs searches “for balance in the understanding of physical and ideological duality of self” referencing “classic renaissance composition and contemporary pop culture.”

If these teaser shots of Meggs on the street and in the studio are anything to go by then Truth in Myth looks like a show that is well worth a visit!

More shots after the jump… Continue reading “Meggs at White Walls”

Good Times Roll: A Review

Let the good times roll. Sculpture by Kevin Harrison. Photo by Jake Lewis.

Last Friday I headed to the opening of Good Times Roll at High Roller Society. The gallery played host to a group show comprising of 39 artists, all with differing styles, using different mediums, and with varied influences and backgrounds. In fact it was rather refreshing and a highly interesting creative mix of people presenting their ultimate passion.

Photo by Jake Lewis.

Continue reading “Good Times Roll: A Review”

Good Times Roll at High Roller Society

Tonight (29th June) sees the opening of Good Times Roll at High Roller Society. The show presents “an eclectic selection of 39 international artists for a salon style Summer Show that finally heats things up a bit this season. Ranging from the street to the studio, painters, sculptors, photographers and printmakers hailing from Australia, Brazil, Portugal, USA and UK join forces to showcase their wares through their passion for different creative practices.”

Following the opening, the t-shirt and letterpress printing workshops with artwork by Rowdy, Sweet Toof & others will keep you going back for more. So check out the opening party tonight, add these following dates to your diary and let the good times roll.

Workshops (minimum donation of £3 per workshop):

  • T-Shirt Printing: with COPYEM12 –– 30th June and 1st July 1.00–5.00pm (both days)
  • Letterpress Printing : with Alex Booker –– 29th July 1.00–5.00pm

Photos courtesy of High Roller Society

Two shows worth checking out this week


Tomorrow night sees the opening of two rather good looking shows. First up for all you London folk is Roid’s debut solo show, More Than Ever. Judging by what I have seen Roid produce in the past, this show looks like one not to miss. But be quick, its only open until June 3rd.

And secondly, we travel East to Bristol to Art-el Gallery and the opening of a solo show by Erms – Everything begins with an E. Again, the following video looks quality, so get down there and check out the art on show.

Photo by RJ Rushmore

Mau Mau certainly knows how to put on a show

Westbank Gallery welcomes Mau Mau. Photo by Unusual Image

Last Thursday, May 3rd, Mau Mau‘s solo show Pigs Might Fly opened with a private view at London’s Westbank Gallery. I say private view, but with a guest list of over 500 people it was hardly private, more like a public view with a party list, all crammed into the two storey gallery.

Having seen some of the preview images I gave a little heads up prior to the show last week, mainly on the basis that I was actually excited to see the pieces for myself and to see how the installations looked up close.

Unfortunately I could not make the opening, but thanks to Beejoir (one of many who helped curate and hang the show) I has given the opportunity to have a look around a couple of hours before the doors were flung open. And I have to say the show did not disappoint. Continue reading “Mau Mau certainly knows how to put on a show”