The graffiti photographer talks at length about many aspects of the graffiti world and tells us all about his work, show and forthcoming projects. Read this thoughts and check out some snaps.
First up, please introduce yourself to the Rapnews audience.
DarkDaze, freelance photographer, RareKind Fam' member, and IndelibleTV Flahbulb popper extraordinaire.
How did you decide on the name Dark Daze, and what other alias's have you operated under over the years?
DarkDaze comes from a number of sources. First and foremost it reflected the state of mind I was in at the time. My girl had just left and I was finding my images were the only things pulling me out the deep hole I was in; and the style of my work-trying to represent straight up documentary approach, in a time when the media is full of false and manipulated images. But it's also in respect to the Marc Singer film 'Dark Days' which blew my mind, not just with the style but the relentless commitment and DIY ethic. Then I heard Chester drop that 'Dark thru my days' lyric… It just all fit.
What's your earliest memory of graffiti and what was it that got you hooked to the artform?
I was lucky enough to go to NYC in the early 80's when I was real young and spent a few summer weeks there and Long Island. Catching the train into NYC was a trip that I can still see now. I don't think my sister and I pulled our heads away from the windows once. It was a sunny day and I just remember colour everywhere. But I only got heavily into Graff as it exists nowadays when I was starting to take my USA street shots and then heavily fell into it when I moved to Brighton around 2000.
How did you hook up with the RareKind crew and what artists and names should we be aware of in there?
I met RK founder Dave Samuel by chance, in a shop that was owned by a writer. I showed them some flicks and they all let me put some prints up in their first Brighton show. It was canvas' by Das, Sore, Rose and Hot. A heavy show. Nowadays, RK is pretty different. It's a slick and innovative business as well as having active writers involvement. It's not just about painting. You've got illustrators, graphic designers, MC's, producers, clothing designers, video directors, photographers.
Between us, we all represent, and have work worldwide, from GQ to Graphotism via Undercover, Raindance to Channel U and MTV, Vans to Brighton Hiphop festival's plus rooftops and sick reaches. The Fam is open for anyone that shows the love and has super fresh artists. It's hard to describe how big it is. Just check the website and go down the shop and chat to Mr Terrible Tanone or if he's not out being busy and running tings, Dave Samuel.
How long have you been documenting the art through photography and what have been some of your biggest achievements at that?
It's just grown and grown for years. I started off taking photos of Das before he even had the first shop in the basement of 3012, and have tried to keep a mix of legals, commissions and writers going street. The biggest achievement personally was the Writers One show because it was a sick show in a legit gallery and the first real time I had got my images out to a more public audience. It showed some of the skills of the writers and we only got 2 negative comments, and it was I think, North Laine Gallery's biggest show of the year. It also cut through the politics of Graff, which I guess I could only do because I am not a Graffer myself.
But it's just constant progress. Seeing my images in Grapho was something I never thought would happen 4 years ago, but now I've had things in there for the last 3 issues and I have gone onto get a deal to publish a Writers Portrait's book. It's about never stopping, appreciating where you have got to, but never getting complacenmt or falling off with your skills. I think Graff has taught me that more than any other artform because so much of it is gone in days and you just have to get over that and step up to the next thing.
Tell us about your 'Pieces' show and what people attending that can expect to see.
Well I can't say exactly what I am putting in yet, but it will be images from the Writers One. It's a chance to see some of the work close up. The images are massive. Prints up to 2 metres long and painted on directly by the artists. You gotta go look and stand in front of the original to really appreciate them. Plus, of course there are Martha Cooper prints. Again, I don't know what she is exhibiting but it's a chance to see a real master's work and someone that we all in hiphop owe a debt to.
Could you tell us a bit about the video installation that's going to be there. What's that all about?
The video is gonna to be a short documentary about the project, with a few interviews with some of the artists, and then a film showing more of my images. It should be heavy. I may even send some more interviews over when the expo' has been open for a while so go back and check.
How did you hook up with Martha Cooper and how big an inspiration was her work to your own career?
Martha's work is just something else. She is a true pioneer. One of a few unique people that realised what was going on and documented it for the rest of us, and her influence is felt everyday around the world. As a photographer, her legacy is just too sick. The images she took, of Dondi for instance, are the best Graff images and we are all in her shadow, but most importantly you can see the equal respect between her and those early kings in her images. Whereas nowadays, a lot of media that exists about Graff just seems to hijack the artist. My portraits are more than a nod back to her. I wanted to be able to show a writer in the honest way that she could back in the day, but do it with a modern, personal edge to it.
Over the years, what do you feel have been the biggest changes in the world of graffiti art?
It's not really something I feel to comment on, as I am still an outsider and not being a writer, will always stay that way I guess. But what I can say is that it's good that artists get some exposure nowadays, but the media (advertising, clothing etc) just take all the time. You see graff imagery everywhere but it's diluted and often ugly.
There was a big craze of stencil street art. What do you reckon will be the next wave of style to come through and dominate?
I think street art will change again. Snub (street artist with skills) was showing me an article just yesterday about the problems with street art. Anyone with a computer and printer can make street art, but that doesn't make it good, then go and paste it up on a graff'd street to get a'sick' flick that they can then go home and drink tea, whilst they post up on their Blog. It can be a weak way of doing things and also shows little respect to those who have mastered a handstyle or throw up and maybe plotted a spot for some time.
Just because it's outside and up on the wall doesn't make it good. There is a lot of art school shit out there. Just take a trip to Shoreditch or Wooster ST to see it. It's hard to say but I think after the massive exposure of the last few years, it will all go underground again as hardcore bombers get more militant in their approach.
Have you had the opportunity to visit other nation's graffiti scenes and how does the UK talent compare?
Not enough in Europe but that's gonna change when I start on the book. I have been to Berlin and Amsterdam, Paris etc but never Barcelona, which I really get burned about when I think about it. For the book, Aroe is hooking me up with some heavy crews in Europe and then I will be in a better position to comment. USA coast to coast several times. I was in NYC in December and it's kind of lost the way a bit in terms of Graff, though there are certain hot spots and productions that are still setting standards.
Who are some of your favourite writers and do you have any all time favourite pieces?
Classic pieces would be too big a list to include, and there's no need for me to recycle info about Kings that people already know. But what I will say is that graff hits me in different ways and to me, a lot of it is about context. In December I took 4 days out and went to New York (to take anything but Graff flicks). There was about 2ft snow on the ground and it was so cold my camera froze, but I forgot all about it when I was wandering around the Bronx and saw a fresh COPE dub. It's moments like that that make Graff such a vital artform. Or watching Seen paint in Brighton. That was the same weekend the Writers One show opened and was too too mental.
I am also gonna try and go down the diplomatic route here. Some of my favourite current writers I am trying to get into the Portraits book, so you will all have to wait till then to see the list. However; I am biased with this, but to be honest some of my mates are just so on top of their skills that I have to include them. Aroe obviously, who right now is so red hot he's burning! To me, he represents someone that could just stop and leave his legacy to speak for itself but he never really seems to tire. Since he started dropping characters again a few years back, his productions have just set the standard down here. This weekend I took flicks of his new Skeleton B-Boys and he keeps trying new things which is important when you are an artist of any form.
Then there is Odisie. There's nothing this man can't paint. Everyone should be scared of him. I just wish he would get out there more. Someone should start a fund to send him paint every week. The world needs his pieces! Serious. When they work together they have done some of my favourite productions. Near the top of the list is the Beef to the Chief wall. It's a dope production but was also just a funny funny weekend and I got fresh flicks. Also, I gotta give props to Rat. He is an artist that seems in constant change. Sometimes it's like he's over a piece and onto a new idea before he's even half way through, but every time you see them you know they're his, even though the style changes almost daily. Then there's the whole car in the NT video, 'nuff said. In fact forget anything you are doing now. Stop reading this. Just go and watch the Terror Fabulous film.
Does it make you mad seeing huge corporations hijacking graffiti by using its character traits in their marketting campaigns?
Yeah of course. It's good to see artists get exposure but they also need to get paid. You can't expect someone to come and drop a piece for your new 'fashion campaign' and pay them in beer. Because the medium can be so quick, a lot of people are ignorant of the skill and dedication involved, that they would more quickly recognise if it took a month using paints and brushes. I am very anti-corporate and anti authority which is why it's taking me a long time to find sponsorship. I would rather struggle than get a big cheque and pushed in a direction by branding or an art director. The Writers Show is a direct reaction against that, which is exactly why the artists were given the prints back to customise. They had the final say in how they were represented.
With regards to marketing campaigns, it's understandable that artists work for big corporations and soft drinks manufacturers etc because they gotta earn notes, and it's not for me to judge them. But you need to be aware of what your culture has given you and be true to that. If you can reconcile that then it's all good.
What's the biggest misconception of graffiti art from the perspective of the mass population's opinion?
That it's damage. How is it any different from the paint that a council authority dabs over the top? Why is no one pissed about that, covering a tag with cream paint on a white wall? How does that help? All it does is produce a bill that the Local Authority can attribute to Graffiti and further demonise a culture.
That it spreads fear and is indicative of other crime in the area. It's a popular myth spread by very dubious social studies in the late 70's, early 80's and represents the paranoid authority social engineering that is such a big factor of our society. Most architects, town planners, law enforcement officers hate writers because they demonstrate that authority is a relative thing and exists in your mind first, to enable it to exist in and shape society.
We live in urban spaces that are so rigidly controlled through almost every conceivable aspect. Graff' is a reaction against that, and is a positive thing. I am not saying everyone should go out and paint but seriously, what a stupid thing to make illegal and imprison people for. We have so many problems in this country, with poverty, unemployment, sanctioned drug running, governments that are in power without even gaining the majority vote, illegal wars. Most of our society is so resigned to be defeat in these areas that the media finds it easy to focus our attention on Graff' and hoodie wearers and other bullshit.
Can you recall any anecdotes of the worst punishment a captured writer's been served? sending graff writers to prison is just wrong period.
We have more people in prison every single day, is society getting worse, of course not, but the list of crimes punishable by removing someones freedom is constantly increased.
What projects have you got planned after the 'Pieces' show you can tell us about?
Yeah I am doing a big project on B-Boy culture, focusing on straight up portraits of breakers and poppers and mixed with live shots too. It should be beautiful. And of course the Writers project is being made into a book too, so I have to start shooting that soon. If people want to get in touch and are serious writers then email me via the website or myspace/darkdaze. But hiphop culture is only an aspect of my work. I shoot band portraits and music videos. For more info check
www.nothing-to-see-here.com then I am looking to point my camera at other subcultures, and for my own fun am working on a film script. Don't sleep…
Have you got a website for people to check out your work on?
Yeah www.darkdaze.org it's going through some changes but is up now and should be all new by the time of the 'pieces' show. Check my peeps at www.rarekind.co.uk and www.indelibletv.com and buy prints from www.brightonphotography.com
Any shout out's to round this up on?
Yeah and this is a long list. Das, Odisy, Rat, Aroe, Vibes, Intro, Soleo, Jimmy, Sticka (for the first Writers One) all The Fam, New Team, RKPR, BHHF and all Brighton Heads. Sore for giving me my first break, Rachel, Princes Trust (for hooking me up with cash) North Laine Gallery, Sarah at Graphotism, all writers that get up, my family (for not having me sectioned when I was living off humous and spending all my money on film), Nothing-to-see-here, Beer and Rap, all the people that have helped along the way, bekah for being a breath of fresh air, Ady and Indelible cru, people in the street that smile and lift their heads…