Artist, photographer, and author Nicholas Ganz is the creative genius behind Graffiti World, released in 2004. The book is 376 pages of kaleidoscopic images showing the best mural work from graffiti writers worldwide. The follow up, Graffiti Women, released in 2006, introduces readers to 276 pages of women who are just as vital to the contribution of the graffiti art movement.
â€œMy own decision of not continuing graffiti books for now was [â€¦] my love to pick up my own cans and paint walls rather than writing about it..â€
Format: Your background is from the punk movement, how did you get into graffiti?
Nicholas Ganz: I came to graffiti almost naturally. I wrote political slogans in the streets and painted punk logos in the restrooms. With graffiti I was able to paint my messages much bigger and was able to reach the people more directly.
Format: Graffiti is not necessarily connected with hip-hop. Why, in your opinion, has graffiti become incorporated into the elements of hip-hop culture?
Nicholas Ganz: It is true, when graffiti started there was no hip-hop, [or even] punk rock. The [graffiti] writers listened to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Hip-hop incorporated graffiti into its own culture, but graffiti was, and still is independent and not related to any type of music. Why hip-hop needed graffiti I really can not answer, since I am not an expert in hip-hop.
Format: I think because of the fact that you’re from Europe, which is a continent deep rooted in culture, your books tend to give detail about the history and meaning of graffiti. What was your initial intent when you decided to make graffiti world?
Nicholas Ganz: I am not sure if the graffiti books in Europe are more about the meaning of graffiti. My intention with Graffiti World was to show the variety of graffiti around the whole world. Most books at that time described local scenes and I wanted to give a picture of the whole world. So I started with my work and the result was this book.
Format: In the book and in interviews you separate graffiti and street art. What do you feel the difference between the two is?
Nicholas Ganz: Actually in my opinion, there is no difference between graffiti and street art. Graffiti is art made in the streets, so it is street art. Street art is art made in the streets, so it is graffiti. The separation in Graffiti Women was only to include some artists who have a different opinion on that specific issue and disagree with me. I wanted to include them in my book, so I made this compromise. The word “street art” in my opinion is an attempt to divide the movement into an ugly (tags, throw-ups) part – the graffiti and the nice and arty part (posters, stencils) â€“ street art.
Format: What was the motivation for your follow-up Graffiti Women?
Nicholas Ganz: I made Graffiti Women, because there had always been a lack of female graffiti artists in the past prints. The intention of Graffiti Women was to give them a feature, and show that this movement is actually not that male dominated as people think. No female artist asked about the lack of women in Graffiti World, because there had been several women included. But I personally saw so many great women out there to dedicate a whole book to them. While starting the project, I got bombarded by graffiti women, who wanted to be in that book.
Format: Your Graffiti World compilation is very successful, but I read some previous articles where you said that you stepped down because graffiti books have become a trend. Do you have any regrets making the books?
Nicholas Ganz: I did not stop working on graffiti books because it has become a trend. It is true, today a graffiti book gets less attention because there are so many of them on the market. My own decision of not continuing graffiti books for now was (and I might always do another graffiti related book, since I still take a lot of photos of graffiti throughout this world) my love to pick up my own cans and paint walls rather than writing about it. Otherwise, writing and making photos almost became a passion for me. But my life includes more things than graffiti, so I can go on with my passion of taking photos and include more parts of my own life and interests. No regrets for my books, I love them as they are.
Format: Besides graffiti, you do so many other things. I understand that you are working on the events inside Burma.
Nicholas Ganz: Indeed, I am working on Burma with all its facades that the country has to offer. Your imagination can paint a greater picture how life in a paranoid military dictatorship with a civil-war raging in the frontier areas actually could be. From this picture I am trying to receive my information to write an honest and deep book with my girlfriend Elena Jotow.
Format: What medium do you prefer to use to get your statement across to the masses?
Nicholas Ganz: In the past I painted a lot of graffiti to bring my message out. Today I am writing articles and I take photos. I try to publish them in books or magazines. Tomorrow, I might paint on canvas or do a movie documentation. I really do not know what the best way to reach the masses is, so I [just] try studying.
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