Photographer Hank O'Neal is out with a new book of stunning color images today—XCIA's Street Art Project: The First Four Decades. Starting back in the mid-1970s, Hank began photographing street art—mostly in New York. For those not in the know, street art is graffiti, murals and other works put up on public surfaces—at times illegally and at other times with permission. All good street art comes with outrage or a touch of the absurd and provokes us to think, laugh or reflect. As I wrote in the Wall Street Journal last Thursday (go here), Hank's passion has become a wonderful obsession. [Photo of Hank O'Neal, top, by Ian Clifford]
Here are three Q&A exchanges from my WSJ interview with Hank [all images are from his new book]:
WSJ: What initially attracted you to street art?
When I started in 1976, I wanted to document a fleeting art form. Pieces went up in public places, but the art was soon covered over or demolished. There was no record that it even had existed.
WSJ: Is all street art worthy of being photographed?
No. The aesthetic exists in the irony and subversive statements made by street artists about our times. Good street art starts with outrage—exposing right and wrong, calling for social justice, or just reinterpreting iconic images. How the art appears, sometimes in torn layers, also defines its quality.
WSJ: Do you consider it vandalism?
Some of it is. But the best street artists respect the city's quality of life, choosing spaces like buildings marked for demolition or wood-panel walls around construction sites.
JazzWax pages: Hank O'Neal's XCIA's Street Art Project: The First Four Decades (Siman Media Works) is available at Amazon and other booksellers.
JazzWax notes: Hank will be exhibiting a collection of street art photos at the esteemed Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York (41 E. 57th St.) starting on March 29. For my earlier interview with Hank, go here.
JazzWax clip: Here's a promo video for the book...