VIDEO: See the 1970s Graffiti Culture of NYC in This BBC Documentary

Posted On Mon, June 29, 2015 By

Posted On Mon, June 29, 2015 By In History, Video

Watch this 26-minute video without sound and you’ll see a striking, visual portrait of the 1970s graffiti movement in NYC, where everything from park monuments to subway cars was covered in tags. Listen to the commentary, though, and you’ll find something much deeper. Created as a mini-documentary for BBC, the video explores the root of graffiti culture. Is it folk art, youngsters marking their territory, planned-out vandalism, a result of pent-up anxiety, or quiet rebellion? Keep in mind this one of the roughest and crime-ridden decades in the city, so it’s interesting to see how some of those interviewed saw graffiti as a parallel to the crime, while others felt it was an artistic alternative that typified the energy of New York.

Perhaps the most interesting shots in the video are those of subway cars, covered from top to bottom in tags. One narrator likens them to decorated birthday cakes, “everything but the sparklers.” We also get to meet the various young people involved in the graffiti movement, who share inside information like how they came up with their tags (one man was taken by the Godfather and used that as his name until a friend suggested he shorten it to Don), their favorite spots to write, and how they get into these spots (one gentleman had a copy of the MTA’s master key that let him and his buddies into the train yards).


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