The global phenomenon of graffiti was captured in Naar's photography in New York in early 1973 and in Naar's The Faith of Graffiti. Now the 40 or so photographs from that classic book and more than 100 additional never-before-published pictures from that body of work are brought together in a book destined to become a classic in its own right.- Book Passage
Internationally acclaimed photographer Jon Naar has been published in the New York Times Magazine, Vogue, House and Garden, Harpers Bazaar, Fortune, New York Magazine, Connoisseur, the London Sunday Times and the Weekend Telegraph, domus, Elle, Schoener Wohnen, Die Zeit, among other magazines, and exhibited in many museums, art galleries and collections, including the Metropolitan Museum, MOMA, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
His corporate clients include IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, SONY, Knoll International, ICI, Levi Strauss, Merck, Air India, Reuters, Arthur Andersen, Random House, CBS, and Air India.
In 1974, Jon Naar photographed The Faith of Graffiti (aka Watching My Name Go By) with introduction by Norman Mailer, now an iconic landmark in the history of street art. He is author or co-author of the best-selling Design for a Limited Planet, Living in One Room, Your Space, The New Wind Power, Design for a Livable Planet, This Land Is Your Land, and Getting the Picture, a book of his photography from 1955 to 2005.
Prior to becoming a photographer, Jon Naar was Managing Editor, Worldwide Medical News Service, NY, International Marketing Director, Pharmacraft Laboratories, NY, and General Manager, Germaine Monteil, Germany and Austria. In World War II he was a Major in British Intelligence in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Italy. He was educated at the University of Paris, Vienna University, London University, and Columbia University.
In November 2005-February 2006, there was a major retrospective of Jon Naar's color and black and white photography from 1955 to 2005 titled Getting the Picture at the Jan Cunen Museum, Oss The Netherlands, together with publication of the book of the same title by Terra Lannoo.
Good evening, welcome to book passage, my name is Steve, and thank you for comingand supporting independent book stores we really appreciate that, and if you have a cellphone, if you can turn it off now that would be a great thing to do. If you are going to geta copy of Jon's book tonight, we ask that you purchase it in advance, and ____[ 0:00:35]treat tonight, it looks like some good photos, I don't know if you had a chance to look atthe book, but they really did a nice job there, little bit about the book and little bit aboutJon, over a two week period during the Winter of 1973, Jon Naar roamed the streets andsub ways of New York city documenting its booming writing culture. The writers andtheir tags and pieces, he took more than 3000 photographs, 39 of which have made theirway into the now classic book, "The Faith of Graffiti" published in 1974. In essencebecome a collector's item and is often referred to as "The Bible", by GraffitiAficionado's. Now in the "Birth of Graffiti", Naar an acclaimed photographer with adozen books to his name returns to that period of the early 1970's incorporating thephotographs from his earlier book along with more than a 100 100 never before seenpictures from this archives to provide a new look at Graffiti's glory days in New York city.Jon Naar's work has appeared for more than four decades in publications including theNew York Times magazine, Vogue, The London Times, and has been exhibited at NewYork's metropolitan museum of arts and museum of modern art. His books ofphotographs include the "Faith of Graffiti" and "Getting the Picture". Ladies andGentleman, please welcome Jon NaarThank you, great to be here on the West coast, the pictures I am showing from my book,"The Birth of Graffiti" and as Steve said they were all taken in a very brief period. Thein December of 1973 in New York city where I was living at that time and it was the firstprofessional photographer to - I was the first professional photographer to document thisnew phenomenon that was just sort of exploding all around us and since I had time, myoriginal book "The Faith of Graffiti" has gotten quite a reputation as Steve said is knownas the "Bible of Graffiti" and many people assume incorrectly that I am some how ahistorian and a specialist in Graffiti, so I want to begin by showing you where I wascoming from when I took these pictures and how how they emerged and we will getinto discussion perhaps of of where Graffiti is is today because it it has become aworld wide phenomenon but in in 1973 it appeared in New York city where I was livingon the sub way trains and on buses and in many public places but I will show you some ofthe pictures that I was taking before I got to to document Graffiti and you will probablysee a certain connection between these photographs and and my Graffiti pictures andthat I am a city person, I was born in London, went to school in Paris and lived in Cairo,Munich and Vienna. Always in in - pretty much always in cities, in large cities, andafter World war Two I moved to New York and lived there for more than 50 years andso I was taking and - I became a photographer in 1964 at a relatively advanced stage butbefore then I was doing weekend photography pretty much around New York and otherplaces I visited and so these are some of the images that I I did at that time.Signs and - curiously I wasn't aware of this picture that I took, some of you mayremember the year that McGovern ran for for President of the United States it was in1968 well 70 70 right.72.Oh, 72 okay yeah, in any event, if you look down on oh sorry - I will come back. Iwasn't aware there there was some Graffiti in this picture, I have much more interestedin this image and in the overall photograph but but that must have been sort ofsomewhere talked away, this picture which I I actually took in 1959 but has a date asyou can see of of '57 I took in in Grinich village, where I was living at that time isactually a graffiti of a gang, so it was again prophetic of of what I would be seeing inalmost 20 years later and of the interest and the interesting thing about this it is donepre spray can and so it was just painted painted on this brick wall, white paint - so thisis the book I mentioned earlier.My first book came out in 1974 that has 39 photographs some of which are in the newthe new book and we will see, we will also notice that Norman Mailer wrote theintroduction to this book and gave it - because of his name, a great amount of publicity,and also I lot of people have thought and by the way Mailer in his introduction callthis "Graffiti art" and I I don't necessarily consider it art but I love that. This this wasmy original this are the the English version - British version of of the book whichhad my title long watching my name go by that I I felt it was a better title because it - ittold you more what Graffiti was about, namely identity of of the people writing theirtags and now we get into the images from this current book "The Birth of Graffiti" so Imentioned the sub way trains because most of the graffiti was done by very young people,young writers.On day one when I set out to to do this book, I I went to a 155th street train station asubway station, on the eighth train - and on the platform were these kids who came up. Ihad two cameras a Leica and another one a Nikon. And one of them came up to me thethe butler hair this head, looked at my cameras and it was a - I think a Thursdayafternoon, they should have been at school but anyhow he he said oh those are nicecameras and I felt particularly threatened, these are ten, eleven or twelve year old kids.So he said "what are you doing?" so I said - oh I believe in telling the truth, so I said well"I am doing a book on graffiti" and he said "graffiti?" so I said "yeah" so they startedthey all started laughing and I said "well what's so funny about graffiti?" and they said "well we are all graffiti writers" and they said "would you like to see some real graffiti andwe will show you some masterpieces" and for the next ten days they took me around andeventually I introduced them to the Norman Mailer, they were absolutely wonderful.And the sad part was that when the book came out, we tried to locate them and oh just a- a foot note on this this is a very important picture because I took it on day one and Isaid to these kids well I will put you on the cover of the book which I intended to do butthe American publisher - there was three editions, the American publisher and the UKpublishers refused to put this picture on the cover because they said "oh the parents ofthese children will sue us" so I said you got to be joking, these kids don't have parents inthe way we do they don't live you know in in regular homes, they and and theythey were children of the ghetto and and in fact I I recently asked - I called out with,not one of these but one of the very first early graffiti writers, I said "well why did youdo it?" and he said "well I did it to escape the pressures of the ghetto" which I thoughtwas a pretty good answer.So anyhow we are getting into the pictures that I took at that time, this is a backyard ofthe 155th street station, this picture is particularly significant I think because when youthink about it, these kids had never been into an art museum, they never studied art, sowhere did they figure out how how to do the the spray can graffiti writing and I Ithink it was a major influence of of advertising. Now this of course was the advertisingthat was was going on in New York at that time, we don't have to be Jewish to likeLevis Jewish rye bread and I think this is quite significant. Central park, Valmont skating room.This is 126th street in Holland, next art of fire station, you can see the red door there, thebus stop in the Bronks, stay high was was and is considered - I learned this afterwards -one of the great early masters of - he is still around, I have - I have never actually met upwith him, I supposed to meet him three times but he he has never turned up but his hisstyle is supposed to be one of the very best. This is a - we will come back to to thatstay high he was all over the place. This this is a [0:13:21] ____ court and on theupper west side in in New York. I think in a school a school yard, this this picture isconsidered by graffiti historians and one of whom Jack Stewart have wrote of a asubmittal PHD thesis. He said that this was oops alright - you see these two names,Eva and Barbara 62 down end what is called outlining and that particular style this 62by the way is it was the number of the street that they lived on, the outlining of theirnames and the numbers was as I say barely the first time you know this was ever done andand so this photograph has special historic meaning in in the history of graffiti.I wasn't aware of any of these when I was taking the pictures because I was basically onthe run myself because at that time police were really chasing you - anybody not onlydoing graffiti but but even photographing it. This is a a very elegant concept thatpeople have said was pretty sophisticated, particularly the [0:15:12] ____ and then theone there basketball court, that was in the El Barrio East Harlem of New York.So another school, these were not the kids who did the graffiti but you know they theywere very happy to have that picture taken with the graffiti. "K 161" is also very famousall time, he was he is considered to be one of the great graffiti writers 161 being on161st street probably on the on the west side and he is still around but I am - again metup with him - oh he was the one he was the one who - whom I introduced actually toNorman Mailer and Mailer said he could never do a book, that was called watching myname book by because it could [0:16:14] ____ and is what slay him if he used that titleso I referred to to Mailer because he got paid $35,000 for writing that introduction andso I said to Mailer "well you are getting paid all that money, you come up with a bettertitle" so he phoned me a couple of weeks after I had taken the pictures and said "well Ihave I got the title" he said I said "what is it?" he said "well I tell you K161" - gotthe title for me and already Mailer said he is talking about his book on Graffiti which isa kind of interesting, and I said what it is and he said oh "The Faith of Graffiti" and Ithought originally he said - I said do you mean Face F-A-C-E, he said no no no- FA-I-T-H, Faith and so that's we live with that. The book was set by oh it had quite aninfluence shortly after it came out because the Graffiti writers in Amsterdam and theNetherlands apparently were doing the wrong style of Graffiti and some book - one of thesomebody send my book - Mailer a - my book to to Amsterdam, "The Faith ofGraffiti" was used as a manual so that the Dutch Graffiti writers could actually do it properly.So this is more of that era, of the great beetle and again the advertising which in peoplesay Graffiti as vandalism, some of us as I pointed out to Mailer and he does mention thatin his introduction, he close me saying well the the advertising is vandalism as wellbecause it's invasion of of property, and because we had we had figure outadvertising in those days.This is in the Bronx, I I found out a lot of these locations recently when I did meet upwith some of the New York old timers and they they know all the locations a lot betterthan I do. That this one is in Brooklyn I remember, it's a very it's a famousphotograph because in part I would like to think because of my photography but alsothis this van was shot and what today is hallowed as writers corner, this is inWashington heights on the upper west side of New York and Graffiti efficient artists stillstill go there and I remember once a year they - more of that - they have they haveget-togethers and meetings there at writers corner.This picture I think is also quite significant because it it was on the underpass of thecoming of the FTI east way drive and it leads very close to Gracy mansion where themayor of New York City lived or used to live - current mayor of - owns a town house andnot far from here but he doesn't live in Gracy mansion but at that time, the mayor wasJohn Lindsay who - who was a very good mayor and I haven't have known himpersonally but but he he really had declared war against graffiti and had the - not onlythe transit police but the regular city police and with police dogs and whole apparatus to -but this way in a way a message I think from the - again from the ghetto writers you knowtwelve - the kids who lived in the ghettos more up town moving into the fancier of parts,they they wanted and that's why they put their messages of course on the on the subway trains and buses because they got much more distribution of their of their identity, their tags.This was one of the yards where the trains were kept over night, very hard to get in thereincreasingly guarded and and one of the kids actually this is the transit police arresting- I am I am not quite clear if they are actually arresting a graffiti writer, I didn't hangaround to too long to find out. This young man is not doing graffiti but he is actually, hewas caught and here you can see he is actually cleaning up, now whether he is cleaning uphis own graffiti or somebody else's I never I never found out that. Particularly fond ofthis picture because again it's political in the sense that that this was the Nixon - Nixon- now who was Nixon - opposing at the no that - yeah but Carter no? McGovern ohthe same year 90 yeah right right but what is interesting - oh what's interesting to mewas the the static's of it that the spray can - the writers picked up the colors from theposter and and so you have got the the red and black and white and the the taxis toreflect that, whether the again was unconsciously or not but it's certainly struck me thatthey are you know pretty interesting and this one of the series of silk sprays that thatwere done from the book Cony island which is now about to be pretty much demolishedin favor of high rise condominiums and and Donald Trump like towers, so again this isan era that won't be around much longer, so we are back to the the red - famous reddevils of of the seventh avenue sub way line and back to the beginning of the book, so Iwould like to get into some questions and try to answer them for you if