Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Luna Park X Becki Fuller Interview : The Street Spot Captured

New York City is the street art capital. Yeh, we said it. Prove us otherwise, and we will change it, but until then, we stand by it.

But with the ever growing street art scene and with fresh talents getting out into a city that for the most part, respects and appreciates it, it is no wonder that more photos of the work is being captured and archived.
In NYC (and much like most cities), the street art community is a tight network. Most artists either know each other directly, met each other more than a handful of times or have atleast 3 degrees of separation between themselves and their fellow artists.
But no one is more known by anyone and everyone in the NYC underground (and above) than Luna Park and Becki Fuller.

Luna and Becki art both photographers and street art enthusiasts. The combination of both their Flickr accounts totals more than 10,000 photos. They have captured thousands of street art pieces on camera. Their love and passion for street art, along with the talent to photograph the artwork in a beautiful manner is a combination that has gained them much respect and love from artists around the world.

Now, Becki and Luna partnered up with our friends at Robots Will Kill to bring The Street Spot. An online blog that will be the Grand Central Station for all the photos taken by Luna and Becki. Along with posting the images (which was the only option on Flickr for them), The Street Spot will broaden their horizons to add interviews, reviews and much much more.

So we chatted a bit with the two ladies and had them tell us about what inspires them, what made them start capturing street art and even who they hope to photograph one day.

BGB: You both have been photographing street art for a while now. What was your initial reason to start photographing street art/graffiti? Do you remember your first street art photograph and how it got you into continuing to capture that art form?

Becki Fuller: I was working at a job out in Crown Heights, and one day I noticed a bunch of Gore B stickers all along my path home. I didn't know Gore B, but I knew that he was in the Endless Love Crew with my friend Royce Bannon. Royce asked me to take pictures of the stickers and from there I just kept going. I had always noticed graffiti, but never street art until I took that first picture...then I started to see it everywhere. It became like an Easter egg hunt for me - I didn't know where I was going to find it, so I just started going everywhere.

Luna Park: It's all Swoon's fault! I came across one of her wheatpastes in Williamsburg and it completely floored me. Up until then, I was completely oblivious to art on the street, so it really was an eye-opening experience. Once I knew to look, I started seeing street art and graffiti EVERYWHERE. At first I only shot what I would come across on my daily travels to and from work, but soon enough I was hooked enough to start actively going out looking for street art to shoot.

Swoon (photo by: Luna Park)

BGB: What have been the most interesting pieces you enjoyed capturing? Are there any artists you particularly look forward to find?

BF: I think that Luna and I would both probably put Revs at the top of our lists. He was the first graffiti/street artist that I really noticed in a meaningful way and since then he has constantly found ways to evolve as an artist. Those metal pieces of his tend to blend very well with their environment and are usually in places where you would least expect to see them. So, yeah, I get pretty happy whenever I spot a new one. I also look forward to Skewville (always full of humor and wit) and Swoon (an untouchable combination of beauty & talent).

LP: I really enjoy good placement, that is, pieces that have been purposefully placed, be it to make a statement, interact with a specific locale or just provoke a reaction. Coming across work by artists like Dan Witz and REVS is especially rewarding because both are so adept at placement, that it's sometimes a real challenge to find their work.

BGB: You both chose to partner up with Robots Will Kill to form "The Street Spot" after having very successful and highly viewed Flickr accounts. Why did you choose to start the street art blog now?

BF: Luna and I had been talking about starting a blog for about a year before we actually went ahead and finally did it. To me it's just another way to keep things fresh and exciting. I always enjoy a new challenge, but once the excitement of that challenge fades away, I tend to lose my enthusiasm. So with street art I have constantly found ways to keep myself interested by taking on new challenges, weather it is learning about low light photography in the tunnels or starting a blog.

LP: I primarily see the blog as an opportunity to expand on the documentation work we both enjoy ... and share our knowledge and enthusiasm with a wider audience. We're friends with RWK, so it seemed like a natural progression to launch this new venture with the support of like-minded people.

BGB: When did you both decide to be photographers? What triggered it?

LP: I've had a camera for as long as I can remember, essentially since I was in grade school, but I've never had any formal training. I took a break from photography in the early 2000s - due to a lack of creative impetus more than anything - but since I started documenting the streets, I've gotten back into the habit of photographing regularly. Traversing the city and confronting a wide range of shooting environments and conditions has been really critical for honing my craft - there are definitely skills I feel need more improvement, but I enjoy the learning process tremendously.

BF: I grew up in the Syracuse hardcore scene, and I remember buying my first SLR camera so that I could shoot a Sick of It All show at the Lost Horizon. I had always enjoyed taking pictures with my point and shoot, but that was when I first started getting a little more serious about the quality of my pictures. Of course I didn't know how to really use it at first, but I took some classes in college and even re-opened an unused darkroom at a local community center. But that was when I was in my teens and early 20s...I fell out of anything beyond point and shoot photography until recently when street art revived that interest.

REVS (photographed by Becki Fuller)

BGB: As a photographer, are you ok with photo enhancements, cropping and photoshoping of images prior to being published (yours or others photos)? Or do you feel that the photo should remain the way its captured?

BF: Up until about a year ago I was a real purist about not wanting to alter my street art photographs. But then I started comparing my photographs to those of friends who were using editing programs, and I realized that mine kind of sucked. I've come to believe that in the context of Flickr, photos look better when they are more polished and enhanced to bring out details that may otherwise be lost.

LP: People definitely achieve remarkable effects post-processing their work in Photoshop - that's an artform in and of itself - but I generally limit my editing to slight cropping, adjusting contrast and occasionally bumping saturation. Digital photography certainly lends itself to all kinds of manipulation, but it's no substitution for thoughtful in-camera work. Good composition cannot be created after-the-fact in Photoshop...

BGB: What is your favorite neighborhood to capture art?

LP: Anywhere in Brooklyn.

BF: I like Williamsburg & Bushwick, because I live in the area for the last 10 years. Not only does it attract most of the good street artists that come through the city, but I have also become much more familiar with my surroundings in a way that I otherwise would not have. Some serious changes have gone down around here. I'm constantly discovering new shops and restaurants, but also watch as many of my old favorites disappear. There is probably a French or German word out there that describes how this makes me feel...

BGB: What artist do you hope to photograph one day that you have not already?

BF: Miss Van is a big one for me. I actually have photographed her work, but I don't really count it because my camera with all of the pictures on it was stolen while I was in Spain a couple of years back. I really don't like thinking about that very much...

LP: It's not a particular artist but a place that I'm itching to photograph: at the moment Sao Paulo is at the top of the list.

BGB: So with "The Street Spot", will you still be uploading regularly to your Flickr accounts? What do you hope to gain with TSS that you couldn't with your Flickr account?

BF: Well, at the moment we have to because The Street Spot site is still a work in progress. But in the future I don't plan on leaving Flickr completely, though I definitely want to move more towards focusing more on the website. I think that one of the benefits of our starting a blog is that we can now work together as a team and really consolidate our efforts to form a stronger unit. The same goes for our partnership with the Robots Will Kill guys. We all bring different strengths to the table and we all benefit for the people that we choose to surround ourselves with.

LP: I definitely plan on continuing to upload to Flickr, as there are always things of a more personal nature that I wouldn't post to the blog. Moreover, I'll document artists in which I'm personally interested and continue building my street art photo archive.

The way I see it, the photos only tell half the story - the blog gives us the chance to add text to tell a story, flesh out a background, draw parallels, make connections, put things in context, etc.
BGB: Do you feel that you are out photographing more these days then you used to? or do you wish you had more time to go out more often?

LP: I'm not out as often as I'd like, but there's this pesky thing called a day job that eats alot of my time.

BF: I was a total spaz about hitting the streets during my first year of street art photography. I would walk for hours after work just about every day of the week and then take even longer trips on the weekend. Since then I have achieved a much better balance between how time consuming this hobby can be and having a social life outside of it. I have two jobs, play in a soccer league, hit as many openings as I can, hang with my friends both in and outside of street art, and still find time for photography. Sometimes that involves getting up very early, but I'm a social person and it would kill me to be isolated for any length of time.

BGB: Any last words to anyone who is starting out with photographing street art out there in the world?

BF: All that really matters is that you enjoy what you're doing. The rest will fall into place.

LP: Never leave home without a camera and if you can get a good shot, take it right away, because in the words of Faile "nothing lasts forever".

You can view the Flickr accounts for both Luna Park and Becki Fuller by clicking here and here.

Thank you to Luna, Becki and Robots Will Kill.