John Ahearn

I went to John Ahearn’s studio in the Bronx to take a portrait of him for ‘Jocks & Nerds. I have been following his work since I first came to New York back in 1980′s. The studio was full of sculptures and the art tools he uses, buckets, the plaster casting materials for the moulds etc – I chose to photograph him in front of these double dutch girls. It reminded me of my first hip hop show in London back in 1982.

John ( who is the twin brother of my friend Charlie Ahearn ‘Wild Style’) came to NYC back in 1974. Working at the artist run Bronx gallery Fashion Moda, he publicly face-cast local people making plaster portraits – there he met the 18 year old artist Rigoberto Torres. Rigoberto had worked with plaster in his uncle’s statue factory in the Bronx. In 1981 they collaborated on a series of permanent neighborhood sculptures casting people like the double dutch girls (above). They are still working together today.
There is a great exhibition of  the sculptures “Works from Dawson Street and Walton Avenue’ on now at the Alexander and Bonin gallery in Chelsea – don’t miss it – the double dutch girls are the ‘stars’ of the show.

Leaders of the New School

I photographed the group Leaders of the New School in 1989 in my studio. We had artist friends the ‘ThunderJockeys’ paint a crazy backdrop for the shoot.Check out the video clip I made at the studio. The group : Busta Rhymes, Cut Monitor Milo, Charlie Brown and Dinco D were from Uniondale Long Island. Next day we went to Uniondale and photographed them at their school.The group went on tour with Public Enemy and Busta Rhymes became famous.

Style Wars 2

Style Wars 2 is a homage to Henry Chalfont’s 1983 movie Style Wars. The directors Velli and Amos who hail from Slovenia and Switzerland say when they saw Style Wars for the first time they fell in love with the movie and the artists : “We watched it so many times we were quoting it constantly – it started getting bigger and bigger.The artists were our idols. Then we made the movie with our pocket money. It took us five years”

Devi (above) is a contemporary graffiti artist who represents the artist Skeme from the original movie.

It is a mystery who’ bombed’  the train painted with the name ‘Style Wars’ we see in ‘SW2” Devi says it wasn’t him but we think he may be undercover …. In any case SW2 is a hilarious tribute to the original.

Graffiti : ‘The uninvited appropriation of public space. The public expression of an individual for others to enjoy’


Tomorrow is the last day to see the Photoville show in Dumbo – it is well worth a visit. LuxLab has a show called ‘Rebels; curated by Carl Saytor featuring, amongst others, my photo of Justin from The GoHardBoyz (above) – true rebels that ride dirt bikes in the Bronx and Harlem – more of them in my next post. The exhibitions are shown in metal shipping containers, there are some beautiful and shocking war images in the exhibition”Liberia -Remembering’, aCurator presents ‘Small Town Inertia’ black and white intense photographs by J A Motram, – and much more to see.


Louis Mendes Street Photographer

I  recently spent the morning with iconic street photographer Louis Mendes and his biographer Ray We met for an early breakfast in Harlem at his favorite tiny soul food diner.We walked around the neighborhood chatting and taking photos Then we went to his home in a converted old hotel by Times Square His room is stacked with photo books, old cameras, boxes of flash bulbs, photos cover the walls.

He used to photograph at nightclubs and has probably shot every one, the famous and not so famous  He takes just one Polaroid which he sells to the subject He never thought to take one for himself

“”I just photograph people, I stand outside and wait for them to come to me. I give them a set price for a Polaroid photo if I need  to buy a coffee or an extraordinary price if I need to fly away”

The idea that he is a documentary photographer seems strange to him He was just taking photographs of people for ‘coffee money’

Now 80 years old Louis can be found outside  B&H Photo, Adorama or at an event at BAM, always impeccably dressed, still taking polaroid portraits – have him take your photo.

Out West

Watching ‘Breaking Bad’ reminds me of road trips out West, driving in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Texas. Deserted roads, neon signs, abandoned gas stations, motels, old cafes,reflections of life as it used to be on the road. Took these shots on cross country trips trying to see the other side of America. It’s still out there.

Shirt King Phade

Ed, aka Shirt King Phade came round to give me his book today. He had some jackets he had painted for a friend’s daughter in his bag. Ed started as a graffiti artist and because of his ‘love of the aerosol’ learned how to use an airbrush and put his art onto clothing.

“I had a shop in Jamiaca Queens that was just dedicated to airbrush art.  All the rappers would come around, each day you never knew who would pop up –  like one day LL Cool J would be there, or Big Daddy Kane, EPMD came all the way from Long Island. They tended to look at me and my team as ‘outfitters’ we weren’t tailors but we were able to put their dreams on their clothes”

Sweet T and Jazzy Joyce wearing a Shirt King sweater NYC 1987

5 Pointz

5 Pointz is old school New York – a living changing graffiti museum in Long Island City. Every spare spaces, walls, street lights, doors, dumpsters is covered by art made by legends of the graff world.

On the side streets guys are cleaning the donut carts that serve Wall st types downtown in the morning – oblivious to their sourroundings as they fill trash bags with the last of the unsold donuts  and cofee grounds, and crush the kosher donut company carboard boxes - french and spanish rap music is blaring,  the trains are rattling overhead.

5 Pointz is a hub for graffiti artists from around the world, constantly changing and  also honoring the legends passed like Dondi White.

Scheduled to be demolished to make way for condominiums – please sign a petition to preserve this icon of NYC

Update November 24th 2013 : Early Tuesday, under the cover of night, painters quietly blanketed much of the walls of 5Pointz with whitewash, erasing the work of hundreds and seemingly putting the final nail in the long battle between the building’s owners, who plan to erect luxury apartments, and the artists who fought to save it.

“This is the biggest rag and disrespect in the history of graffiti,” said a teary-eyed Marie Cecile Flaguel, a spokeswoman for the group behind 5Pointz, which sprang like a rainbow from the gray sidewalks near Jackson Avenue in Long Island City. “He’s painted over the work of at least 1,500 artists.”

Hassan Hajjaj London

I visited artist Hassan Hajjaj at his store in East London (above : Hassan (R) with his ‘bruvva’(L). Born in Morocco he moved to London in 1975, he seems to know everyone, the store is buzzing  with locals, musicians, artists dropping by for a chat and some tea.

Hassan is working on a photography project to do with identity. He says “I noticed that a lot of my friends in London come from places with very distinct traditional costumes that they wear for special occasions. When I’m in Morocco, I’ll wear a djellaba, but when I come back to London I wear Western clothes. When you see the different costumes side by side, you can really see the cultural differences. ”

I love his work,  beautiful images and video footage shot on the streets in London and Morocco, very real and from the heart.

Punk, NY Magazine, the Met

The punk show ‘Chaos to Couture’ at the Metropolitan Museum inspired New York Magazine to interview me about my experiences back in the seventies London punk days.

Punk brought an anti-establishment raw freshness to music, art and style. It was about change, the idea that people should question authority and do it for themselves. Coming from an art school background. I loved punk, 2 Tone, reggae. rockabilly, I liked soul music. I liked all kinds of music. At that time in England, the economy was really bad and the whole “No Future Punk” thing was going on. Kids would come out of school and they couldn’t get jobs. People were rebelling against that. To me, punk was an attitude, a life style, that changed everything in the UK.

FYI  In 1994 London’s Victoria & Albert Museum had an exhibition called ‘Streetstyle: from sidewalk to catwalk’ which explored a similar theme to the Met show – they displayed a twelve foot high print of my photo of the Islington Twins at the entrance – the exhibition unpretentiously showed how street style, music and youth culture affect the world.