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SUBWAY ART PHOTOGRAPER HENRY CHALFANT INTERVIEW

Posted by Billyjam, July 11, 2009 04:45pm | Post a Comment
Subway Art
Subway Art
-- the legendary graffiti art book by Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper -- has just recently been republished in a nice big coffee table hard cover version appropriately titled Subway Art: 25th Anniversary Edition. The book has never been out of print since its initial 1984 publication but this new anniversary edition is just jaw-droppingly amazing and a must-have for any graffiti fan.

Its much larger scale and new dimensions of 17" by 13" full-color spreads allow the crispy clear photos to fully come to life in their bright, beautiful colors and hence make them so much easier to fully appreciate.

The new edition of Subway Art also offers numerous never-before-seen photos from that late 70's / early 80's era of New York City when Cooper and Chalfant were documenting this vibrant and rampant illegal public transit art form; one that would be gone by the end of the decade in which the book was first published. But over the years Subway Art has taken on life of its own and the influential book has gone on to sell a staggering half a million copies.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Henry Chalfant about this influential art book. A Stanford graduate who was first a sculptor, Chalfant has lived in New York City for many years and is now nearing 70. He is equally known in graffiti circles for his documentation of the art form via the book Spraycan Art which he co-authored with James Prigoff, and for Style Wars, the historic PBS documentary on New York graffiti that he co-produced with Tony Silver. Chalfant's work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A few years ago he directed the excellent Latin and hip-hop themed documentary about the South Bronx, From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale, that aired on PBS stations in 2006.

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TONY SILVER, DIRECTOR OF GRAFFITI FILM STYLE WARS, PASSES

Posted by Billyjam, February 10, 2008 10:45am | Post a Comment

In the past week hip-hop lost one of its greatest historians when Tony Silver, the director of landmark 1983 graffiti hip-hop film Style Wars, died after losing to his ongoing battle with brain cancer. New York native Silver, who made the legendary documentary with producer Henry Chalfant, lived in LA and  is survived by his wife and two daughters and grandchild.

Beside Style Wars, Silver had a fat portfolio that included award-winning work in theatrical and TV trailers, main titles and special effects. As a documentary director his credits include such films as Anita Ellis For the Record, 30 Seconds At A Time (about company response to employees who are victims of domestic violence), and Arisman Facing the Audience (about illustrator Marshall Arisman). Additionally Silver lectured at universities around the US and served on panels at the NEA, the NEH, and at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But it is for Style Wars that Tony Silver will always be best remembered.

The film, which just about any true die-hard graffiti artist can quote verbatim, remains not just a classic among hip-hop/graffiti fans but is also recognized by educators and critics the world over as the most important film to capture the original spirit and vitality of hip-hop's element of graffiti which emerged from from the gritty streets and subways of New York City and later (thanks in great part to this film) blossomed into global consciousness and appreciation. Style Wars, which originally aired on PBS, won the Grand Prize at the Sundance Film Festival upon its original release.

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