Droppin’ Knowledge: Graffiti Digital Discoveries

By - Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

We’ll be the first to admit, we love Instagram. It’s given us a way to discover thousands of graffiti artists and their work, at my fingertips. Though, beyond Instagram, there are blogs, forums, exhibition catalogs, gallery websites, non-profit groups and collectives, all providing work by and details about graffiti artists from across the globe.

We can’t count how many homemade lo-fi graffiti videos we’ve stayed up all night watching, enthralled by different techniques and styles from around the world. The internet has allowed our curiosity to move far beyond our own neighborhoods and local spots and into the lives of international graffiti writers. On the other hand, it’s extremely easy to argue against this development. There is something to be said for experiencing anything first hand. Like viewing any artwork on a screen, seeing it in person always does it far more justice. We can even bring this back to books, hard copy vs. kindle vs. iPad or the return of the 35mm film camera, the typewriter or vinyl records. Of course, original is almost always better.

However, we have a hard time dismissing the ever-expanding online community of graffiti writers, appreciators and critics. There are mobile maps for finding graffiti spots, similar to the local guided tour, Instagram accounts dedicated entirely to documenting graffiti with smartphones and many other specialized outlets for exactly this cause. Of course, outside or online, there will always be trolls and toys, they are an integral part of the scene, as they keep the balance of good and bad in check. This contrast of authentic artists and wannabes helps us to weed out the Instagram pages and commenters whose intentions are elsewhere.

The online scene leaves it up to the beholder to identify what is or what isn’t worth their time, the list of writers or graffiti photographers we follow online has been refined over years and endless scrolling, but that doesn’t mean there are 100 more out there we’ve yet to discover. This outlet for curiosity mirrors the addictive quality of seeking new spots, tags, pieces in your city (and others). Frankly, if we had the time, we’d be travelling to cities known for their graffiti scenes and absorbing them up close and personal. Though, the reality is that this just isn’t a possibility for everyone. Because of that harsh realization, many rely wifi and the wifi of others to help keep a visual catalogue growing, and curiosity forever unsatisfied.

Here are the two sides of this debate: 

1. If you can’t put in the work to get out there and see real graffiti in person, in the streets, then maybe you shouldn’t be part of this community. 

2. Graffiti has become accessible to those who may not have had access to it before, and this accessibility revitalizes the root of graffitis public presence

Where do you stand? Should those who don’t get out and get up be able to participate in the conversation/community? Is the online presence of graffiti helping or hindering the game?

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