A few years back I was standing by a train, waiting, looking at the graffiti on its side. It struck me that these artists, the graffiti painters, were sending out this absolutely beautiful work into the world, without knowing where it would end up, who would see it, what would happen to it. It is like throwing a story or a song out to the wind for the whole world to enjoy.
That got me thinking about storytelling, how stories grow and are embellished, how they change over time, how they become new stories.
I started photographing graffiti and quickly realized that I like to make closeups of parts of the big works. The idea behind making these closeups is not only documenting what they are and how they change affected by time, the elements, weather, other painters, close encounters with other trains, but also retelling stories and creating new stories in the process. The original graffiti artists paint their stories on the side of a train. They go out into the world and get rained on, scratched, rusted, sometimes painted over. I see them at some point in this transformation and make a closeup, a new interpretation. My stories go out as pictures, and the viewers can then make up their own stories by letting their fantasy fly. It is a beautiful and very enjoyable process.
Interestingly, I found that I get quite angry at painters who paint over other artists' work, be it with a tag or with a different painting. There is no need for that! Also, I tend to dislike graffiti work where silver is used extensively, which is curious, because silver is one of my favourite colours.
The other interesting thing I discovered is that quite a few railroad workers love and admire the graffiti on their trains. Not so in general with graffiti painted on buildings; that work is often despised. There are "graffiti zones" nowadays in towns and cities, where artists can paint their works in designated areas. But, in my opinion, most of the "zone work" is not nearly as vibrant, energetic and alive as the "natural" graffiti.