Henry Chalfant: New York’s defining street art photographer

The 79 -year-old regards back on a career of captivating graffiti and the hip-hop scene in Manhattan through the 70 s and 80 s

In the late 1970 s, New York photographer Henry Chalfant embarked on a potentially dangerous project- to shoot graffiti on the city’s subway cars.

” I was a middle-aged white man, so I would be stopped by the police and they’d say politely,’ Sir, what are you doing ?” recalls the 79 -year-old photographer recently in The Bronx.” I’d tell them’ It’s for a school project, I’m a schoolteacher ,’ I lied to them right off the bat .”

Over the process of being 10 times, Chalfant made over 1,500 photos of graffiti art, subway cars, rappers and break dancers. A selection of 100 rare photos are on view at the Bronx Museum of the Prowess as part of his retrospective, Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transportation, 1977 -1 987, which tracings the early days of hip-hop and graffiti, long before they were world movements.

As one of the most notable” graffiti photographer”, a great deal of metro artistry would be gone forever if it wasn’t for Chalfant, who was there to immortalize it in the Bronx and upper Manhattan through the late 1970 s and 1980 s.

Chalfant, who lived on the Upper East Side, would take the instruct to the Bronx if there was a subway mural he wanted to photograph.

” My procedure was to stand at the uptown metro scaffold and wait until the downtown train stopped on the other side of the moves ,” he said.” The doors don’t open on that side, so as long as it sat there, I took draws .”

Wall by Rize and Lil Man, Ven – Washington Heights, Manhattan, NYC. 1986 Photograph: Henry Chalfant

The exhibit is divided into three main sections: photos from the 1970 s and 1980 s featuring early rappers, graffiti creators and break-dancers, a recreation of his Soho photo studio, and lastly, a apartment of life-sized, tagged metro automobiles made of vinyl sheeting( there are train reverberate impressions, very ).

” The majority of these photos were taken in the Bronx ,” he said over the humming of thunder bap hip-hop strikes, honk from a boombox seated in a corner of the museum.

It all started when the New York film director Charlie Ahearn told Chalfant about the graffiti masters in the late 1970 s.” He first tip-off me off to its existence, he went to uptown golf-clubs and made photographs of it in the late 1970 s ,” he said.

Chalfant started photographing graffiti in 1977.” I was watching them decorate, and once I figured out how things wreaked, then started hitting them ,” he said.

The first train he killed was a subway train called with the word” Merry Christmas” by the Fab 5ive graffiti gang, who hailed from Staten Island and specialized in full-car subway murals.

Destroyed and Abandoned structures along Hoe Ave and the IRT line in the Bronx, 1981. Photograph: Henry Chalfant

He continued to shoot graffiti artists like Futura, who decorated subway autoes alongside Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the murals of Dez, an creator who went on to become DJ Kay Slay, a hip-hop artist who has collaborated with Busta Rhymes, Rick Ross and Fat Joe.

” I was around to see the rise of hip-hop ,” said Chalfant.” This is definitely an exhibition with majority decisions of artworks that happened before graffiti was accepted as art and before hip-hop was a big industry .”

There are rare photos of Madonna in 1983 dancing with Crazy Legs, the Puerto Rican b-boy from The Bronx, who was part of the Rock Steady Crew. There are also photos of the few known female graffiti craftsmen, like Lady Pink and Abby, as well as artists like Kay Slay and Dollar Bill, standing on a collection of rubble in East Harlem.” This is how it inspected back then, 1st street and 102 nd street, exactly a good deal of rubble ,” said Chalfant.

He remembers teaming up with photographer Martha Cooper to photograph break dancers.” It had always been an uptown thing , none attaches importance to it , nothing was recording it ,” said Chalfant.” We thought it was amazing .”

Graffiti didn’t really punched the mainstream until the 1980 s,” in dribs and drabs ,” he said.” People were so interested, it spurred us to do more .”

Summer Scene by FC Crew, Manhattan, 1985 Photograph: Henry Chalfant

It was a time before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority threw American pennants on the side of subway autoes.” That was immediately after 9/11, parties started can walk with little American flags, in New York even, saying’ USA, USA ,’ waving their pennants ,” cancellations Chalfant.” Then, they threw them on the subway autoes .”

Chalfant cured create a documentary about the roots of hip-hop culture called Style Wars, which won an give at the Sundance film festival. In 1985, he stopped killing graffiti.

” My incentive was reduced because the MTA was buffing graffiti off the learns more rapidly, within a few days ,” he said.

Occasionally, artists were get arrested.” In the old days it was a slap on the wrist and a penalty, more recently, they constructed it a offense if the damage is $1,000 or more ,” said Chalfant.

By no astonish, subway gondolas in New York today are very rarely labelled with graffiti art.

Among the uncommon photos in the exhibition, there’s one of an creator hanging out the two sides of an old, rust-brown subway gondola in Brooklyn. As the MTA acquired a new sail of silver metro cars, they had to get rid of the age-old ones, so they propel them into the ocean.

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ artanddesign/ 2019/ oct/ 07/ henry-chalfant-new-yorks-defining-street-art-photographer

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