I am not sure why but my camera is drawn to record graffiti as we travel. Some of it is incredible street art worthy of being recorded and saved, but much is just a defacing of public and private property.
I have developed some opinions about why some places are rank with graffiti while others are completely devoid of it. My first belief has to do with how attractive a place is along with a natural reluctance of most people to deface real beauty. The exception of course involves a subculture that sees destroying a places intrinsic value and even natural beauty as a form of expressing hatred for the very place where they live and perhaps the very people they live with.
It looks more and more like the growth of graffiti in much of the world is the result of growing population displacement and immigration to places with major cultural differences. Often it seems like biting the hand that feeds?
My second belief involves regional and local authority. Some places are either overwhelmed by the task of trying to prevent or punish street vandals or perhaps do not think the vandalism rises to the level of a serious enough crime to warrant strong punishment. In these circumstances the result is usually a growing blight on the community where the locals just learn to accept the problem as part of life.
The counterpoint to that is a strong local government where punishment is quick and serious enough to cause potential “artists” to reconsider their chances of arrest, jail or worse.
Graffiti is not new but has been around for thousands of years. Examples of graffiti have been unearthed from ancient Pompeii and Rome (above). One of the most common forms has been to protest but more and more recently it seems to have no real purpose other than to desecrate.
There are places where graffiti has been channeled into a socially acceptable art form where artists are celebrated and whole communities get involved in decorating walls and fences. In addition to the above there are economies where tourism is a major source of income to the community and tolerance for graffiti has a serious economic impact.
Western Europe seems to be an increasing target for graffiti and many locations seem to be helpless to stop it. Unlike graffiti in many places in the world, the canvas in Europe has often become churches, historic sites and public buildings. Before the recent clash of cultures from major immigration, these buildings were considered cultural icons and considered off limits.
Above – Top left-Monte Carlo, Italy. Top right – Palma, Spain. Bottom left – Lisbon, Portugal. Bottom right – Tahiti.
Often modern graffiti is becoming less political protest and more an ethnic challenge. Political protest and anarchy are growing causes that spread graffiti. It is becoming more and more common in the West to see Antifa symbols, revolutionary slogans and Arabic scrawl as a major element of graffiti, showing up from Greece to Germany, Norway to Quebec, Canada and the U.S.
Interesting that there are places in the world that are virtually graffiti free. It is rare to see it in rural areas of America, or in cities in Australia and New Zealand. I can’t say I noticed any in Amsterdam which is a very permissive culture, nor in Singapore. In the case of Singapore it probably has to do with a very harsh criminal code and strict enforcement. Even the fine for not flushing a public toilet in Singapore is S$200.
Anyone else a collector of graffiti? Care to share? Love to see what you found and where. E-mail us at TheIntentonalTraveler@gmx.com