Last night I attended the sell-out screening of Wall Writers: Graffiti in its Innocence at London’s Prince Charles Cinema. The feature-length documentary traces the origins of contemporary graffiti in late-1960s and early-1970s New York and Philadelphia. Director Roger Gastman tracked down the writers of 50 years ago, in order to focus on the individuals that developed and evolved the then fledgling culture. These contemporary interviews are blended with archival footage and stills to paint a fascinating picture of urban deprivation, and the response to this in a new form of youth culture and expression.

SJK 171 at UGA, circa 1973.Photo by Herbert Migdoll

MIKE 171 double exposure, circa 1971.Photo © SJK 171

UGA canvas featuring STITCH 1 -N- ROCKY 184.Circa 1973. Photo courtesy of ROCKY 184

CORNBREAD declares he has retired. 1971.Photo used with permission of Philadelphia Inquirer ©2014. All rights reserved.

COCO 144 strikes a pose in front of his canvas at UGA . Circa 1973.Photo by Michael Lawrence.

BAMA poses in front of his painting “Orange Juice” at the Razor Gallery. 1973.Photos by Herbert Migdoll.

SNAKE 1, STATIC 5, FLASH 191, and STITCH 1 at the P.S. 189 school yard in Washington Heights, New York. Circa 1973.Photo courtesy SNAKE 1.

Wall in the Bronx featuring Nixon posters and a CHARMIN 65 tag.©Jon Naar 1973, 2015.

The London screening was organised and promoted by Mindspray (Pride/Chrome Angelz) and featured an extended Q+A afterwards with Mike171 from the film. The film is available to stream online, and there are more screenings planned, with the next happening in New York on March 22nd. There is also a large-format book to accompany the film (Publisher; Amazon UK; Abebooks USA).

Thank you to Mindspray for bringing the film to London, and Mike171 for being part of a brilliant event (and sharing your old footage online…)