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Brooklyn Street Art

…loves you more every day.

Luna Park’s “(Un)Sanctioned” Book – Our Interview & This Weekend’s Launch

Posted on October 18, 2016

When we invited Luna Park to the Brooklyn Museum to be onstage with us and Swoon (Callie Curry) a few years ago, she told us she was a bit nervous because of the size of the audience, but really she was probably more nervous to meet the artist. That night on the stage with New York’s best known female street artist and Sharon Matt Atkins, the curator of Swoon’s Submerged Motherlands that was on exhibit upstairs, and Keith Schweitzer, Luna told us all the significance of the moment for her as a photographer and a Street Art fan.

“I can actually remember the first piece of Callie’s that I saw – for the very simple reason that it was my introduction to Street Art,” she said recalling a scene on the street in the (then) artists neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2005.

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Katherine Lorimer AKA Luna Park (UN)SANCTIONED The Art On New York Streets. Carpet Bombing Culture. Great Britain 2016

“I was walking down Wythe Avenue, where the Wythe Hotel is now and all of the sudden this female face popped out at me from a door – and because I hadn’t really given Street Art or graffiti any thought up until this point I really had no way of putting this in any sort of context so it literally stopped me in my tracks…. It really represented a paradigm shift for me because all of the sudden the wool had been pulled from in front of my eyes and I started seeing Street Art and graffiti everywhere.”

She spoke of that moment that many of us in the scene describe when you become so sensitized to the practice of creating a public dialogue with one’s art that you begin to see it wherever you look, forever transforming how you interact with the city. It was at that moment when Luna was speaking to us all that the personal passion of her public photography came home to us.

“So I was actually very pleased to be invited to participate this evening,” Luna said as she looked at Callie, “because in a way I’ve come full circle to be able to sit with the woman who inspired me to take this journey is a great opportunity.”

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Katherine Lorimer AKA Luna Park (UN)SANCTIONED The Art On New York Streets. Carpet Bombing Culture. Great Britain 2016

The memory of the joy and the excitement of discovery of graffiti and Street Art is something we never take for granted, and we have always given voice to as many artists and photographers as possible on BSA for that reason. Luna, whose real name is Katherine Lorimer, this month introduces her first book-bound collection of many of her most electrifying moments of capture and documentation.

Heavy on New York artists, particularly her favorites and dear friends, the collection captures a splendid offering of the spine tingling pieces of ephemera one could stumble upon here in the last 11 years – if they did the hard work. Expertly collected and selected, this above all is a reflection of one personal journey.

In 2010 we interviewed Ms. Park with her Street Spot blog partner/photographer Becky Fuller and their west coast associate and Street Art photographer Stefan Kloo about their challenges and satisfactions in a rapidly evolving street photography scene.

“Today I go about following up on leads or hunches much more strategically, all the while ready to adjust my travels around the city as needed. Of course there are still plenty of serendipitous sightings – I revel in every lucky, random encounter,” she told us. After thousands of photos and many miles underfoot, this volume unfolds before you and one can see that it takes a lot of skill and hard work to be lucky.

We spoke with Luna about her brand new book and what the whole practice and journey has been like for her.

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Katherine Lorimer AKA Luna Park (UN)SANCTIONED The Art On New York Streets. Carpet Bombing Culture. Great Britain 2016

Brooklyn Street Art: What initially drew you to the practice of capturing and documenting graffiti and street art?
Luna Park: 2005 was a watershed year for me: having ended a failing relationship, I found myself in a personal and creative rut. Being in a transitional phase, I think I was perhaps more open to new inspirations. I was living in Greenpoint at the time, so I frequently cut through what was then still an active warehouse district on my way to the L train. It was there that I first stumbled across a piece by Swoon, a chance encounter that would propel me down a new path in life.

Once I became attuned to the proliferance of work on the streets, I started playing a game in which I purposefully varied my commute so as to never walk down the same street twice. I bought the first of many digital cameras and began honing my craft.

At the time, it was not unusual to regularly find new works by the likes of Faile, Dennis McNett, and Dan Witz to name but a few. There was so much weird and wonderful stuff to be discovered – like that tentacled UFO thing with the googly eyes hanging off the sides of buildings – the mystery of it all struck a nerve and piqued my interest. This being the early days of social media, documenting required a great deal more legwork than today – but being a determined and inquisitive person, I was up to the challenge.

I really had no idea how deep I would delve into this culture and how profoundly it would influence my life. Something about the experience of walking the city and finding art on its streets filled me with so much happiness, I quickly became obsessed.

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Katherine Lorimer AKA Luna Park (UN)SANCTIONED The Art On New York Streets. Carpet Bombing Culture. Great Britain 2016

Brooklyn Street Art:  There are any manner of art-making methods on the street today and a variety of approaches creating work in the public sphere.  What are some of the components or qualities of a piece that draw you to shoot?
Luna Park: Being drawn into conversations with random strangers is one of the greatest pleasures about shooting on the street. They see the camera, stop, look and invariably I end up debating with them what is and isn’t art. Even if we disagree, at the very least I’ve given them pause to think.

Ultimately one’s appreciation of art is entirely subjective – that being said, for me to shoot a piece, it needs to resonate with me on an emotional level. Some things, like clean lines or a good handstyle, just hit you at the gut level and don’t require overthinking because you just know they’re good.

If work is funny, clever, or political, that certainly draws my attention. I prefer originals to multiples, but only because the latter are often implemented so heavy-handedly that they come across as advertising. I like a good puzzle, so work that defies easy classification really pushes my buttons. And admittedly I’m a sucker for sculptural installations – the stranger, the better.

Thoughtful placement, with an eye for the surrounding environment, is another key factor. And of course crazy placement – of the ballsy, bordering on death-defying, how did they pull that off variety – always impresses. While not popular outside graffiti circles, I’m an unabashed fan of large-scale, highly visible vandalism.

I’m not an art historian, nor do I lay claim to any definitive or complete view on NYC street culture. It will take an encyclopedia to do that complex and nuanced subject matter justice. I can only speak for what I’ve experienced with my own eyes and that’s a very personal and highly opinionated view on the art on NYC streets.

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Katherine Lorimer AKA Luna Park (UN)SANCTIONED The Art On New York Streets. Carpet Bombing Culture. Great Britain 2016

Brooklyn Street Art: There is a larger discussion about legal versus illegal work today that calls into question the permissioned mural and myriad festivals that are producing elaborate compositions. Do changes like this in the scene affect your own photography?
Luna Park: Absolutely. As much as I enjoy some permissioned murals, they certainly don’t awaken the same sense of excitement as unsanctioned works. There’s no sense of urgency on my part to run out and photograph a mural – unless it’s something at risk of imminently being dissed or painted over.

What was once largely a DIY community affair has ballooned into a three-ring festival circus of wall brokers, gallerists, curators, agents, developers, sponsors, public relations officers, vertical media networks and high follower Instagram account holders with a sideshow of handlers and enablers all up in the mix. Each new wall brings with it a scrum of photographers loitering below lifts, eagerly competing to upload to social media before the paint has even dried and obsessing about having enough likes.

For me, street photography is a joyful and natural extension of the very personal and largely solitary experience of taking in art. The public spectacle surrounding muralism has sucked the life out of something that should be more pure, relegating us all to hamsters in a giant content-creation wheel.

Of course I still photograph murals, only I do it strictly on my time.

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Katherine Lorimer AKA Luna Park (UN)SANCTIONED The Art On New York Streets. Carpet Bombing Culture. Great Britain 2016

Brooklyn Street Art: Flickr as a photography platform sort of started you off with sharing your images and building community. How did it change your experience of shooting graffiti and street art and what part of it still resonates for you?
Luna Park: In its heyday, Flickr was a magical place. For many of us, it was not only the first, really game-changing social network, but one specifically catering to visual artists. It was where I got my first education in street art and graffiti: starting off with no idea how to identify artists, the hivemind of Flickr always pointed me in the right direction. Groups and discussion threads were active, and, for the most part, welcoming of newcomers.  By following artists and a few key photographers in cities around the world, I always had my finger on the pulse of the scene. And with each new follower, I gradually came to understand it as my solemn responsibility to come correct, step up my game and capture what I saw on the streets of New York as best I could.

I’m absolutely certain that without Flickr, my passion for shooting the streets would not have taken off like it did. It took me about a year of posting to Flickr before artists started inviting me to hang out at paint jams and attend openings. What was initially a virtual community soon solidified into a real, live community. So many artists I now call friends, I first met on the platform. Because the Flickr experience was so overwhelmingly positive, it removed any stigma in my mind associated with meeting people online. If anything, now I’m suspicious of people without an online presence.

Thanks to Yahoo’s mismanagement, Flickr missed the critical jump from desktop to mobile app. Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, more artists and photographers alike shifted to Instagram and the Flickr community of yore died a slow death. I still regularly post to Flickr for the simple reason that it’s an indispensable index to my photo archive. The librarian in me latched onto the organisational aspects of Flickr immediately and to this day, I make sure that anything I upload has all the necessary hashtags. What good is an online photo archive if you can’t find anything?

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Katherine Lorimer AKA Luna Park (UN)SANCTIONED The Art On New York Streets. Carpet Bombing Culture. Great Britain 2016

Brooklyn Street Art:  How does it feel to see your images collected together with words from friends and bound into a book for the first time – as opposed to seeing them primarily on screen?
Luna Park: It feels great! After documenting NYC streets in a digital format for eleven years, it’s immensely gratifying to see it condensed into a proper, 192 page book. I’m very proud to that my contribution to the history of the movement is now officially on the record. And it is an honor to have my work on a bookshelf next to that of my heroes.

I’ve wanted to put a book out for a while now, but the timing hadn’t been right until now. I’m very thankful that my publisher, Carpet Bombing Culture, not only gave me this opportunity, but were also tremendously supportive during my darkest hour last year. Having had this book project on which to focus all my energies really helped propel me through a difficult time in my life.

And don’t believe what people say: the book isn’t dead by far.

Brooklyn Street Art: What would you like people to know about this amazing evolving scene of art on the streets?
Luna Park: The streets are an incredible wellspring of inspiration. Don’t just sit there – engage with your environment. Explore more. Go outside your comfort zones. Stop thinking about doing something and do it. Be passionate about something. Anything! And give it all you’ve got.

 


 

All photos of the book’s plates © Jaime Rojo

Katherine ‘Luna Park’ Lorimer’s book (UN)SANCTIONED The Art On New York Streets from Carpet Bombing Culture will be launched in conjunction with AdHoc Arts 10th Anniversary show at the opening party at 17 Frost Gallery in Brooklyn NY. Click HERE for further information. Copies of Ms. Lorimer’s book will be available at the show.

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