Photographing Street Art

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Street art has grown in popularity and is slowly becoming a recognized and accepted form of expression. Granted, some street rat is misused when it defaces private property, but for the most part there seems to be a trend by local street artist and graffiti artist to showcase their work on more visible venues and to do it with the property owners permission.

There is also a growing number of photographers who specialize in recording street art and graffiti through photographs. Most graffiti lends itself quite well to being photographed due to the colorful tones which are common in this style of art.

The images may not be completely recognizable by many, but most often they have a meaning; sorts of a message which he author is trying to promulgate, sometimes direct others not so.

When recording these works, it is a good technique to frame the image to exclude any other elements; the focus should be on just the art with nothing else including the "canvas". Close ups of particular motifs should also be included in some of the images.

Unlike most art works, one does not need to obtain permission to photograph these works since most always they are visible from the street; thus street art.

However, it is worth to relate to the artist, especially if you want to follow his or her work and make this a specialty. Most will gladly embrace your work since recognition is one of the main things that these usually young artist crave the most.

Some scenes may also include parts of the "canvas" as well as the surrounding area, but keep in mind to only do so if the outside elements add to the entire scene rather than distract from it; A good example would be a photo of a graffiti work and parts of a wall on which they are painted if the wall does not have any other signs, colors, or distractions.

If the general scene where the art is painted upon is surrounded by congested scenes, colorful window displays, busy restaurants and so on, it would be better to exclude them.

Work with the artist and ensure that his or her "tag" is also included in the final images, it is also a good idea to provide them with some photographic samples of their work.

Other street art sample are sidewalk art, where he artist sues water soluble paint ,but mostly chalk. These artist usually do so not only to showcase their work but to make some extra cash too. Local authorities are glowingly allowing this form of expression, especially at tourist city areas.

In my hometown South Beach and Coconut Grove are two such locations, and there is never a lack of interest as you can always find these artist due to the growing crowds that they attract. Recently there has also been a growing number of art festivals dedicated exclusively to street art and many talented artists have begun to gain national and even international recognition for their talent.

Another popular form of street art, but one which I have lately seem in decline, is painting with spray canisters. These artist use regular store bought spray paint,a variety of common tools such as plastic cups, lids, sticks, rocks and a host of everyday items to create very richly decorated and detailed pieces of art. Their canvas is mostly a flat square piece of aluminum, and their work reflects this by its shine.

Most of the subjects associated with this type of street art, at least on my hometown, centers around celestial bodies, and I have always been fascinated by their accuracy. Most sell for around $10 to $15 dollars but some artists will gladly accept any donation.

It is worth noting the speed and precision with which these artist create their work, with 15 minutes from beginning to completion for most pieces. Their techniques are as much a piece of art as the work itself.

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Although as previously mentioned one does not usually require permission to photograph this type of work, it would seem fair that if one where to profit from the taking of these photographs that the original artist should receive a compensation.

I have always made it a point to share any profit derived from my photographs of their work.

Keep in mind that because they are producing their work on a public venue, usually without authorization; thus waiving their right to the work, can be seen by anyone and often you will see the artist but once, so reaching them afterward may not be an easy task.

Give these artist a business card just in case they want to let you know about any upcoming work and to create a two way communication link as well as for networking since this is a closely nit community and are always aware of each others work and planned activities.

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez

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Comments 17 comments

Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

Those photos and art is amazing. Kudos to you for sharing with the artist. That's a total win-win for both as everyone needs/wants recognition for their talents.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Thank you Lynn. However I have found on some occasions, albeit very rare, some of these artist who do it just for the art and refuse any form of compensation.


justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

Great stuff Luis, they have events locally where folks can come and do street art but some of these you've shown are awesome! My website is in the building stage (finally) so I've spent a a lot of time getting scans and text together (text seems to be the tricky part) so sorry if I've missed some of your always interesting hubs! Peace!! Tom


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

justom: Thanks Tom. Hope your site goes well and let me know if I can help with anything..looking forward to seeing the finished product.


Robin Anderson profile image

Robin Anderson 5 years ago from United States

I am a big fan of street art. I like how you talk about permission to photograph and compensation to the artist... these are things that I think about and wonder how other photographers handle it.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Robin Anderson: Thank you, I try to compensate them but this is easier said than done since it is difficult to locate them afterward


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I wonder if Nicholson is aware his Shining scene is on the side of the wall and if he doesn't-if upon finding out he would complain or think it a great compliment. He has a great sense of humour, so probably the latter. I'm not sure.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

FloraBreenRobinson: Thank you, he would probably chuckle at it...


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Yet another great topic! Sidewalk art always makes me think of Mary Poppins. :)


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

randomcreative: Thank you, Mary Poppins???


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

yes, in the film Mary Poppins, Dick Van dyke's character created chalk drawings and performed live for a living. at one point they all jump into one of the drawings.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

FloraBreenRobinson: Thanks, didn't know that, actually never seen Mary Poppins


Casey Strouse profile image

Casey Strouse 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I've been taking pictures of graffiti and street art with my camera phone and my Nikon S3100 for the last two years as I ride my bike around Phoenix, Arizona where I live. I love the bright colors and the geometric pattern that tend to be popular in graffiti.


sallybea profile image

sallybea 3 years ago from Norfolk

LuisEGonzalez, fascinating images, I am a big fan of graffiti art, keep on wondering why it has taken me so long to find some on HubPages, a day after publishing my own article, voted up.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 3 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

sallybea: Thank you


Vimural profile image

Vimural 3 years ago from Tucson

I definitely enjoyed the variety of information provided. We have to give many props to the photographers just like the street artists.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 3 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Vimural: thank you

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