Art is and will continue to be, subjective. What one person views as evocative, imaginative, dramatic, or creative, another person could see the same thing and call it blatant vandalism.
Graffiti can be art, despite being illegal in the UK. It is considered a criminal offence when it causes damage to another person’s property or results in the decline of the community.
It begs the question why, if graffiti is illegal, are there so many buildings in most of Britain’s major cities, plastered with graffiti?
It happens because it is allowed with the express permission of a property owner, or in the case of public property, with the council’s permission. And, this ties back again to art being subjective. For artists, art is a form of creative expression and everyone has different tastes. It’s similar to how it is considered by some to be romantic to carve initials or messages into trees (an art style called arborglyphs), but others may take offence because slicing deep into the tree can damage it.
Street graffiti tends to be referred to as tagging, whereas planned community street art projects are done with the consent of the local council, often in consultation with artists, and in partnership with health organisations. As an example, during the lockdown of 2020 and 2021, a number of street art initiatives were organised to provide an outlet for young people to enjoy creative arts outdoors, in managed social groups as part of mental health initiatives. Some projects ran for the entire summer period.
Private homeowners are free to paint murals onto their walls, and garden paths. Commercial property owners often commission street art, sometimes as part of custom branding, other times, in collaboration with artists, or students such as was the case in Bedford high street where the Edwardian Arcade had a street mural installed with contributions made by BedfordBID and Bedford College.
Street art is a genre in and of itself. It encompasses wall murals, graffiti-style art, spray-painted murals, 3D wall murals, and pavement chalk art which can be done by artists solely interested in creativity, or more frequently, used by brands as part of street advertising because chalk is temporary. As is sticker art, which is another form of street art. Some artists will have their art transferred to vinyl and use them to tag their art (temporarily) on lampposts, buildings, structures, or venues.
Not all types of street art are permissible without consent, but what is allowed is photographing. Something street art photographers do as a hobby and for preservation because wall art can always be changed, or removed.
Depending on the nature of how street art is done, it is for many, a creative pastime travelling around cities, and sometimes even globally, photographing various types of creative arts outdoors. Asides from being a type of art genre, street art extends to photography too.
Photographers experiment by snapping shots with different lenses, taking shots at various angles, and some murals can be used as a backdrop for a portrait. One of the trickiest parts of photographing large outdoor wall murals is fitting everything into the one photo.
When that is the case, you can opt to create a triptych display using three frames to display together or use the one picture frame for 3 photos. The only difference is the amount of space between the photos when hung as a wall display. With a multi-aperture frame, the distance is fixed and permanent (at least until the prints are reframed). With three single photo frames, the distance can be changed.
The next time you see something that evokes any type of emotion that is painted on a building, in an underpass, or on the ground, consider it art that can be photographed, printed, and framed. Photography is, after all, a preservation method. Framing it puts the hard copy of a digital print within a protective casing.