Photojournalist Roger Perry had a passion for documenting those on the outskirts of popular culture. Fascinated by the cities developing music scene, he started to take photos for the newly established Time out magazine in 1968. His black and white photographs soon became iconic; capturing the personalities and styles of his subjects and leading to a successful career and regular magazine contributions (Time Out, The Sunday Times, Vogue and Nova ). Now it seems books about street art / graffiti are commonplace on our bookshelves, however it was his book The Writing On The Wall (1976) that led the way, documenting London’s then ‘fledgling graffiti scene’.
Showing the ancestry of what we see on walls across London today, the exhibition looks at the seminal roots of graffiti where words seemed to have more poignancy and graffiti made a statement.
‘It’s a far more visceral means of communication, that for the most part is less worried about the style of the writing, and more concerned with the content of the message. At a time when graffiti had more in common with Blake than Basquiat, it’s self-promotion, poetry and political discourse, all played out on the streets of 1970s London.’
To mark the 40th anniversary of the book’s original publication it’s recent republication – an exhibition at The Horse Hospital allows the photographs to be re-evaluated with a contemporary eye.
Funded through kickstarter, the project was started by George Stewart-Lockheart with support from Carhartt Work in Progress and Roger’s widow, Kate. We caught up with George to find out a little more about the posthumous exhibition:
‘We funded the republication through Kickstarter, and got the original designer, Pearce Marchbank (RDI) on board to do the new edition. I wrote a foreword that pieces together the stories behind the graffiti, after tracking down most of the original writers, and Bill Drummond did a little text for the start of the book. There is also a lot more info about Roger in this new edition, with anecdotes written by close friends and colleagues of his included alongside unseen images.’
‘I had no prior experience with publishing, so it’s been quite a learning curve! After the book was finished, I thought the pictures should be exhibited somewhere.’
‘I got in touch with Carhartt WIP, who jumped at the chance to help, and have been super supportive of the whole project. They got the Horse Hospital interested, and it all fell into place from there. Luckily Kate had this ready formed show, as Roger had printed and framed a number of prints, that had been sitting in a box in her attic ever since!.’
The originals are currently on display among a selection of photos from the book, alongside a selection of ephemera (letters, notes, press cuttings and cameras).
WHERE: The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD.
WHEN: Until the 1st August.