All City Writers | graffiti book

Newly published books on the topic of graffiti seem to be getting released weekly. I remember when hunting out unseen graf books would involve visiting poncy art book stores and then being coaxed into dropping £40 on some obscure German-language photo book. The old Zwemmer book shop on Charing Cross Road in London was a prime location for these, but hardly the most appropriate place to hang out unless you liked being with stuffy art types. We’ll do a proper write-up on some of our favourite graf books down the line.

The peak of the ‘street art’ interest in 2007/2008 had every fake writer producing watered-down and uneducated shit (seriously, has anyone seen the ‘Urban Cookbook’? I’ll be addressing that particular crock of shit in my graf books feature), so it was often hard to see through the haze of nonsense to find the good books.

I first heard of ‘All City Writers’ in the summer of 2009: it had a cool styling to the press release and website, and the claims sounded a bit too good to be true. I mentally scribbled it down as one to watch for if I ever saw it on the shelves (I’m not blindly buying any art/design/graf books ever again, after being disappointed with my Amazon orders so frequently). I wasn’t sure when it’d be out, so I was pleasantly surprised to have found it when we went to the Cartier graf exhibition in Paris: it stood out on their table of publications for sale, so I grabbed a copy. I say ‘grabbed’, but the realism is that I struggled to pick it up, as this thing is a beast! With 410 pages and a good inch-and-a-half thick with a hardbacked cover, it’s not something to take off the coffee table without a forklift truck. That said, leaving it there for posing points is a total waste, because this thing is packed with features, interviews and knowledge that you’ll want to read. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a graffiti book with so much interesting text.

The angle is mainly European, but that’s not to say there aren’t lots of US contributions. The first half of the book is the story of writing in Europe, showing how the influences of NYC spread across the oceans and infected a whole continent. The second half of the book focuses specifically on Italy, documenting the rise and growth of the scene there. That might turn some of you off, but trust me when I say this isn’t throwaway content by any means. The images and stories are incredible and it’s clear that the six years spent putting this book together were well spent.

One of my favourite sections was the comprehensive story about T.C.A. (The Chrome Angelz) and how they developed from Zaki Dee’s Trailblazers into one of the world’s most highly regarded crews after their subsequent ‘Spraycan Art’ exposure. Thought Mode 2 and Bando and the guys didn’t hammer the trains upon their European travels? Think again…

Drax, Elk, Coma and Don contributed some great content on the London scene, which was enough reason to buy the book anyway. Real history from the people who created it and not some kid who’s been taking flicks of his best mate’s stenciling career.

There’s a great timeline in the opening chapter that puts the European graffiti movement in parallel with the NYC scene – and plenty of interesting stories about the European writers making their first trips to try their hands at painting the NYC subway system. There’s nice features with various graf magazine editors (including a breakdown of what went down with the guys at Xplicit Grafx when the Parisian crackdown took place a few years back) and a lot of images from some of the best fanzines that have been part of the scene.

For the £30 or whatever it’s retailing at, this is one of few books that’s worth the money. At the time of writing, I’ve had this three weeks and I still haven’t finished reading it. Available from most of your usual online book vendors – and you can check out the official website here.

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