CARPAZINE: Are you a photographer that travels or a traveler that photographs?
I am a traveler that expresses his journeys in photographs.
CARPAZINE: What do you most enjoy photography?
It is everything surrounding the photo that makes a great picture. In my home, all of the images that I share all have stories. It's the stories behind these photos that I truly love.
CARPAZINE: How many countries have you visited? 83
CARPAZINE: As far as we know you are the only world graffiti photographer, how many trips have you taken with the purpose of capturing graffiti?
First, if that's true it's crazy that I'm the only one. It’s flattering and humbling. Graffiti art is so impressive all over the world and you can tell the heart of the area through its graffiti. I've been on about ten trips exclusively for the graffiti art. On those trips I have visited over 20 cities- just for the graffiti art.
CARPAZINE: Where was your favorite graffiti location?
There have been a few: Cape Town, South Africa. The abandoned bobsled tracks in Sarajevo. The Peace Lines (Peace Walls) that separate Northern Ireland from Ireland are just so vast and impressive they could encompass an entire edition. And of course, Pittsburgh, and the rich history of graffiti art that was explained to me by Detective Sloane.
CARPAZINE: Has there been a region that stands out in terms of quality or quantity of graffiti?
France. Paris especially. Graffiti is art there. It is protected by law. One of my favorite stories is of a couple that broke up. The boyfriend broke it off. The girlfriend said “Don’t you do it! If you do, I will be everywhere! I will be at your job, your bars, where you play, I will be everywhere!”. And she was. She sprayed images of herself at all of his favorite places saying things about his… manliness. Saying this about his lack of prowess. So he retaliated. In all of the men’s rooms of all of those places he sprayed her image, though altered, with less than stellar things to say about herself. The amount of graffiti art, the locations, and the complete variety, all within the city limits of Paris just floor me.
CARPAZINE: Why do you think most cities have graffiti?
There are a few reasons. I’d say first would be the “breaking the law” version. When kids just tag things. It’s something they see as harmless and a way to see something of themselves when they pass by. When they lay down art, though, that is when an artist is leaving a piece of themselves behind because they were inspired by something and they needed to get it off their chest. Maybe they did it for reasons of vanity, maybe because they wanted to leave a remembrance of someone, or maybe just because they wanted a place to look nicer than it did when they got there. Sometimes I find the best graffiti in the worst of areas. When I was in Pittsburgh Detective Sloan, he told me that in our last shooting location that I was “not to come back there without” him “ because things wouldn’t be so nice if I did”.
It feels like graffiti can be a way for a city’s soul to come forward. It gives us a glimpse into its heart.
CARPAZINE: How is the style of graffiti different from culture to culture?
Some graffiti is simply that. Graffiti. Sometimes it is art. Depending on the location the results are different. I have found that in areas where the culture embraces the artist the art is more intricate. More detailed. More soulful. I’m not saying that where the culture doesn’t embrace it we don’t see that, I’m saying we see it more where it is embraced. Where it is more of a hidden thing, where the artists are arrested or otherwise prosecuted for their work, the art sometimes takes on a hurried look. It is less celebratory of the life they are leading and more reflecting the struggle they have.
CARPAZINE: What makes you stop and take any picture?
Sometimes I feel a physical pull. Literally. I see something and I feel pulled back to look again. Sometimes it’s the humanity in the image. Other times it can be something as simple as the shocking colors that are used. Really there is no one thing that makes me stop. Many things make me stop. When it comes to then, taking a picture, it’s even more involved. I am a one shot guy. I don’t take several photos and then choose the one that looks best. I look, I see in my mind what I want, I stare through the lens and try to make my mental image appear in front of me, and then, if all of those things fall together I take one shot. If it’s not there when I check it, then I move on. If it’s there but the horizon is off, or some car got in the way, or I feel there is a better way to shoot it so you see less people, I will try one more time. But 90% of the time it’s one shot and done.
CARPAZINE: What do you do differently when photographing graffiti?
Lately, I’ve been trying to include the environment that surrounds the art more. I started by just capturing the art. Now I am trying to capture what around the art enhances it.
CARPAZINE: Is there a website to see all of your graffiti photographs?
Of course there is. www.carpazine.com :) You can also check out my youtube channel to see videos of my past travels at www.youtube.com/marylandphotog.
Instagram is @photographerofgraffiti
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CARPAZINE ART MAGAZINE ISSUE NUMBER 30! We are celebrating 30 issues with photos of Parisian graffiti! The official photographer of Carpazine, Gregory Norris, traveled to Paris to take exclusive photos for this graffiti special. Check out the interview with the photographer and find out more about his work.
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