Wall Writers: Graffiti in its Innocence

Feature-length documentary film by Roger Gastman about the emergence of graffiti in the 1960s and 1970s.

Wall Writers: Graffiti in its Innocence
Wall in the Bronx featuring Nixon posters and a CHARMIN 65 tag. © Jon Naar 1973, 2015.

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
SJK 171 at UGA, circa 1973. Photo by Herbert Migdoll.
MIKE 171 double exposure, circa 1971.Photo © SJK 171
MIKE 171 double exposure, circa 1971. Photo © SJK 171.
UGA canvas featuring STITCH 1 -N- ROCKY 184.Circa 1973. Photo courtesy of ROCKY 184
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.
CORNBREAD declares he has retired. 1971. Photo used with permission of Philadelphia Inquirer © 2014. All rights reserved.
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COCO 144 strikes a pose in front of his canvas at UGA . Circa 1973.Photo by Michael Lawrence.
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.
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.
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.

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 is also a large-format book to accompany the film.

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…)