|Contents||This theme includes example sections and will be revised and added to as we proceed. Suggestions for additions, improvements and the correction of factual errors are always appreciated. |
Status: Collect > Document > Analyse > Improve
305.01 Experimental and manipulated photography > Introduction to graffiti
The graffiti series of Brassaï that were similar to photographs of the 1930's that others were taking - for example the signs that Walker Evans was taking in the USA or the graffiti that Humphrey Spender took for the 'Worktown' project in Great Britain. The Worktown project, dealing with Bolton in Northern England, was an early sociological experiment in 'Mass Observation' where photographs, diaries and questionnaires were used to examine contemporary life in the Britain. Mass Observation project of which it was a part started in 1937 and continued until the early 1950's.
A more intriguing example is the intentional art graffiti sprayed in abandoned buildings in Southern California by John Divola for his "Vandalism" series which began in 1973.
305.02 Experimental and manipulated photography > Brassai: Graffiti
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer
From the early 1930s Brassaï was fascinated in the evolution of graffiti and would return to the same locations in Paris to see how a work was altered. In December 1934 the Surrealist magazine Minotaur published his article "Du mur des cavernes au mur d'usine" (From Cave Wall to Factory Wall) which included examples of his photographs of graffiti. He saw the wall markings not as a degraded art form of the street or a form of play but as a means of "mastering the frenzy of the unconscious".
Brassaï explored the history of graffiti from its origins in the cave paintings of Altamira, through the etchings at Pompeii, the graffiti of the French Revolution up to the present day. He was fascinated by the concept of the "primitive" and the symbolic and presumed magical power of graffiti. Surrealism was partly based on the liberation of the subconscious and access to dream states and graffiti was seen as a visible connection to deeper levels of the mind.
- Λ Humphrey Spender, 1987, “Lensman”: Photographs 1932-52, (London: Chatto & Windus)
- Λ Bolton Worktown: Photography and Archives from the Mass Observation
(Accessed: 5 May 2014)
- Λ James Hinton, 2013, The Mass Observers: A History, 1937-1949, (Oxford University Press). Book description from Amazon (Accessed: 9 July 2013):
This is the first full-scale history of Mass-Observation, the independent social research organisation which, between 1937 and 1949, set out to document the attitudes, opinions, and every-day lives of the British people. Through a combination of anthropological fieldwork, opinion surveys, and written testimony solicited from hundreds of volunteers, Mass-Observation created a huge archive of popular life during a tumultuous decade which remains central to British national identity.
There are other studies by and on Mass Observation including - Charles Madge and Tom Harrisson (eds.), March 1938, First Year’s Work 1937-38 by Mass-Observation, (London: Lindsay Drummond); Tom Jeffery, 1999, Mass-Observation: A Short History, Mass-Observation Archive Occasional Paper no. 10, (Brighton: University of Sussex Library)
- Λ John Divola & David Campany, 2006, John Divola: Three Acts: Vandalism, Los Angeles International Airport Noise Abatement Zone (LAX NAZ), Zuma, (Aperture)
- Λ Book cover for Ludvik Soucek, 1962, Brassai, (Prague: S.N.K.L.U.); Brassaï, 2002, Graffiti, (Flammarion)
- Λ Brassaï, December 1934, "Du mur des cavernes au mur d'usine", Minotaure, no. 3-4
- Λ Quoted in - Mary Ann Caws (ed.), 2011, Surrealism, (Phaidon), pp. 68-69
- Λ The discovery of the cave at Altamira in Northern Spain was made public in 1880 and it was only in 1902 that the athenticity of the paintings was agreed.
Cave of Altamira - Wikipedia
(Accessed - 18 December 2013)
- Λ The work of Sigmund Freud influenced the understanding of dreams by the Surrealists although the meeting between André Breton and Sigmund Freud did not go well. Freud never gave his support to Surrealism.
Sigmund Freud, 1900, Die Traumdeutung [The Interpretation of Dreams], (Leipzig and Vienna: Franz Deuticke)
Brassaï (1899-1984) • John Divola (1949-) • Walker Evans (1903-1975) • Irving Greines • Alexandre Orion • Aaron Siskind (1903-1991)
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