For all the books on Graffiti that are in bookshops around the world, The Birth Of Graffiti stands amongst a very small band of publications that really take you back to the very roots of the art form. If you’re used to seeing stunning double-page spreads of pieces, gleaming in perfect colour and supreme detail, then you’re in for a shock with this book.
Jon Naar is a photographer that has lived in New York, the birthplace of Graffiti, for 50 years and as such he has been able to document the movement and culture from its conception. The short introductions by Sacha Jenkins and Naar himself are the only text in the book and give a wonderful description of the city and reasoning behind the start of writing, with Naar explaining that his two favourite photos in the book are of the Star III and Redbird’s Stay High tags on the trains that “rumble ominously across the landscape of tenement buildings above the crowded streets”.
The book itself is a collection of tags that swamped New York in the early 70s, not having evolved into the murals and pieces that are fill the pages of many books on the shelves today. Indeed, this book features only tags and because of that makes it a must-buy. Seeing the simple and yet so powerful signatures on subway windows, high-rise buildings, parked vans and more, showcasing how these young artists got their name known, often with their zip code tacked onto their alias, is a real treat and the importance of Naar’s work cannot be underestimated.
In his introduction Naar unhappily points out that “virtually all traces of this remarkable visual effusion have vanished” so make sure you pick this book up and take in the true history of the most incredible and expansive art culture in the world.