As New York City graffiti zine Carnage (@carnagenyc) gears up for its latest release (happening this Saturday), we took the time to reach out and gain a bit more insight about this special issue and its format. Featuring 72 pages with over 160 black and white images of New York City writer Lions’ (@lions_nyc) personal 35mm collection, Issue 6 is a special tribute to an era of graffiti as told through the eyes of one of its proliferators. Here’s what he had to say about it and the value of analog and print.
Mass Appeal: This book features photography from 1995-2005, an iconic era for multiple New York City scenes; including skateboarding, music, and fashion. What made it such a compelling time for the quality of graffiti being produced?
Lions: To me, this moment was basically a good period to still catch a lot of classic graffiti here in New York. I was in the streets taking photos at any opportunity. I was fully committed to exploring and doing real graffiti. This was a transitional period for me, when digital photography was becoming more frequent, yet I was still shooting film. This collection might not have felt so important had I not had actual prints of these images in hand. I feel lucky to have experienced this window in time here in New York. It’s nice that this collection is still fairly relevant and these photos represent a lot of memorable moments for my friends and I.
MA: Why is quality such an important factor in the graffiti that you search for and document? What does it say about the writers that have been able to produce that trait?
L: It’s not easy for an inexperienced writer to be able to discern between quality and flash in the pan graffiti these days. Writers that are on a professional level in all aspects – grimy or conservative – these are the people truly dedicated to actually being in the streets. These are the people we should all strive to look up to if you care about graffiti as much as I do.
Carnage Issue 6, 4×6 prints, eggshell and vinyl sticker
MA: Zines have always been prevalent in graffiti and other DIY cultures, however, with the Internet and the proliferation of digital documentation of things, a lot of that has changed. But we still see a strong zine/analog presence with graffiti. Particularly with Carnage at the forefront. Why is this? What do zines/books do that the Internet can’t?
L: It’s becoming less and less frequent that people have something tangible to revisit and critically analyze. I think there’s nothing better than holding and looking through a nicely curated book. I chose to present my photo collection with Carnage because they are dedicated to a consistent, sincere documentation of quality graffiti.
MA: This book’s roster is a heavy, heavy set. If you could say a few words about the collective impact of all of these writers, what would they be?
L: I feel that all the graffiti in this book represents the very raw, classic illegal graffiti that influenced me and my friends here in New York. All these writers are people who have obviously put in a significant amount of work to develop style on this level.
MA: Are there any writers in this issue that you’ve never met?
L: Yes, of course, plenty of people. I mostly hang with people in the crews I associate with personally and have known for many years.
MA: The book is also dominated by more tags and throw ups as opposed to pieces. Why is this? Is it a reflection of the times? A reflection of values? Or both?
L: I think it reflects the aesthetic I favor in terms of graffiti. I feel like the fundamentals such as doing strong stylish tags and doing proper outlines seem to be lacking in graffiti today. I kinda hope this positively influences some younger generations to stick with this classic formula. There’s nothing better than seeing solid graffiti in the streets of New York City.
MA: Some people associate graffiti with colors. Why is your photography in black and white?
L: I actually shot all the photos on color film originally, but we decided to go with the black and white format because it fits the aesthetic of the material and allowed us to include more. I should mention that there will also be a much more limited boxed edition of the book with added content and a few other items at some point in the near future.
Supporters should make it a point to head out to Reed Space Annex (151 Orchard Street) in New York City this Saturday, February 15th, 7-10pm for the official release. Refreshments provided by Heineken.
Carnage Issue 6 will also be available online via carnagenyc.com on Monday, February 17th at noon.