There’s no doubt about it, Lee Bokfin must be one of the most energetic people I’ve had the honour of getting acquainted with. Last year Lee and I had a quick talk in which he explained his gigantic ambitions to create ‘Globalstreetart‘, the biggest street / art graffiti archive up to date. I’ll be the first to admit I was a bit sceptic about the viability of his plans as I know how much dedication something like that would take. Little did I know that Lee, besides having endless energy, is also one of the most dedicated and passionate people I’ve met in the last two years. Within in a year he turned Globalstreetart.com in his desired archive, created a Facebook page with over 55.000(!) fans and soon a book which I’m definitely looking forward to!
Lee used to be a proper b-boy until an injury prevented his career to go any further. He needed another love to focus his mild OCD on and I think we should all be happy that turned out to be street art and graffiti. Lee literally has jumped fences in dozens of countries to create a whooping archive of over 60.000(!!) photographs he took himself. As Lee also has a PhD in evolutionary mathematics (I know, he doesn’t cease to surprise!) there’s no-one better equipped to categorize and map all these photos in a quality archive. And now, a book!
The book will be published at Unbound (Go check out the page here) and is just waiting for your pledges and input! Why should you pledge for this book, you ask me? In short I think documentation of this ephemeral art and era is of great importance. Not only will most of the art-works be gone in a few years from now, also most of the digital pictures, articles, etc. will be lost and forgotten in cyberspace over the next few years. What better way to stop and reflect on where ‘we’ are at than a quality book? The Global Street Art book will do this with photographs, excerpts and stories I’m all extremely looking forward to!
But hey, don’t ask me why you should pledge for this book, Ask Lee! Because we’re good people, we’ve asked him for you!
How long have you been working on / planning this book?
I’ve started writing the narrative for the book within the last two months but the plans for the narrative: why we’re moving into a more curated World has been in place for 6 months or so. I’ve been taking photos for over 5 years but it became a lot more serious in 2010 or so.
With who have you been working on this book?
Every artist! I’m working on asking permission from every artist before we include photos of their work in the book. The way I see it they’re the artists, we’re just documenting what they do. I’m also interviewing a lot of artists and the foremost graffiti / street art historians and academics.
Our archive shows how amazing street art is globally around the World today. Artists are also helping us with extra photos to make sure we do their work justice. The narrative is about how street art (and graf) got this good and where we might be heading in future. Its a great chance to talk about the impact of the internet, advertising, and other forces on why our generation is so visually literate and how technology impacts information sharing. I get to be an academic again!
Our publishers, Unbound, have been very helpful advising us about crowd-funding too.
Could you tell us a bit about the people you’ve interviewed for this book?
Because I’m still writing the book I’m not exactly sure which photos will make the final edit and which interviews. What I can say is the number of people who’s opinions will be reflected is impressive: great artists, leading thinkers (some of whom are also great artists too of course!), and people who have helped build up an amazing infrastructure around street art and graffiti (festival organisers, etc.). I feel really blessed that I have been able to speak with so many incredible people.
Do you, maybe, perhaps, have a little teaser of a travel story from the book?
I’m not sure how many of my travel stories will make the book because I’m not the focus, the art is! That said, I might not be able to hold back some of the stories. Running around in tunnels under New York, being chased by dogs in Lisbon, stumbling into drug dealers apartments, walking in on heavily armed SWAT team exercises in the favelas in Rio, getting wet feet in the Spanish city rivers, plus an enormous number of abandoned buildings, great artists and great friends. I love what I do – its not for everyone but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
What sets this book apart from other street art books?
The photos in the book are roughly the top 0.5-1% of photos from our 70,000 photo archive, which immediately sets the standard for the art very high. Primarily this will be an immense coffee table book. Also, the narrative is very progressive – this isn’t just about pretty pictures, its also about why the art is so good. There will be more thought behind the narrative than the vast majority of street art books, which usually miss the context of the images. That’s what I’m working very hard for anyway!
Finally, one more time, why should people pledge for this book?
I imagine people will pledge for the book because they know the pictures will be incredible. The fact that the writing provides a great context to the images is another reason. I suppose lastly, the fact we’re trying to paint the World piece by piece with our own Walls Project is worth supporting too. Street Art is a great way of talking about public space and that affects everyone.
For me this book is a step in the direction of a permanent bricks-and-mortar street art and graffiti museum, which is my main purpose in life!
So there you have it my friends! Now take a look at the fantastic Global Street Art Unbound page and don’t forget to do a pledge if you like what you see!