Graffiti in the City

Spray paint in splattered across almost every building in Santiago. The graffiti ranges from artistic murals to vulgar phrases. In some settings it enhances the beauty of the city, while in others it defaces historic architecture. In general, it is illegal, but the carabineros in Chile don’t seem to do much to prevent the painting.

In my travels around the city streets of Santiago, I have discovered two groups of people working on some wall art. One group was working on a project to cover a blank wall in broad daylight. Their commissioned work was being filmed for a time lapse video over a period of five days. Another time I ran across two teenagers starting to tag a wall in the middle of the night. They were not worried about being caught, but I noticed their art had been painted over by the next week.

(From left) Julian Gaona, 13, and Nicholas Douglas, 14, paint graffiti on a temporary wall surrounding construction on Sept. 6, 2013 in Santiago, Chile.

(From left) Julian Gaona, 13, and Nicholas Douglas, 14, paint graffiti on a temporary wall surrounding construction on Sept. 6, 2013 in Santiago, Chile. Gaona said he likes to tag because it’s a “form of expression.”

Telly Gaitua works on a mural being filmed for a time lapse video on Aug. 26, 2013 in Santiago, Chile.

Telly Gacitua works on a mural being filmed for a time lapse video on Aug. 26, 2013 in Santiago, Chile.

A note about my cameras: I took the photo of Gacitua on my iphone because I felt uncomfortable carrying my 5D III around the city with me my first few days in Chile. For one, I was concerned I might be robbed and I also didn’t want to look like a tourist any more than I already do with my blond hair and giant backpack. My iphone did a good job capturing scenes for me, and I must admit that in some ways I like it more than my SLR. It is less conspicuous and more quickly accessible. I think subjects feel more comfortable in front of an phone than a big camera because they are familiar with taking pictures of themselves and their friends on their own. (That said, people carry around SLRs to a lot of events as well.) I’ve found that when I feel like an outsider, my more artistic and well-composed photos come from my phone, but I have been hesitant to shoot events on it because I feel like I have less control over the outcome of the picture (focusing, shutter speed, metering, etc.). Still, I’m interested in seeing what I can produce with it. I know a lot of photojournalists have shot stories with only a phone, and now that they have quality cameras, it is possible to shoot high quality images. Perhaps I’ll try it soon.

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