Thanks to smartphone technology, we all walk around with cameras in our pockets or bags, but tend to pull them out to take pictures of events, of friends, of ourselves. As someone trained on 35 millimeter film cameras at the age of 11 or 12, and trained to use a darkroom at perhaps 14, I still can’t adjust to the idea of pointing a phone to take a picture. Indeed, when I’m not otherwise laden down by a bag of some kind, I usually have a DSLR with me, to confirm to the kind of picture taking I learned some 40 years ago.
That said, I’m always alert to the possibility of some striking image crossing my path, and over the past eight months or so, I’ve come to realize how many images literally roll right by me. It seems that an increasing number of white panel vans, making deliveries throughout the city, have been turned over to artists, who are allowed and it would seem encouraged to make statements on these motorized tabulas rasa, undertaking works that range from vivid graffiti to subjects more deliberate and varied. I wonder whether they’re created to stave off unauthorized graffiti artists or perhaps to stake out territory that will warn them away. Whatever their provenance, they certainly brighten up the streets, and bring urban art into the increasingly sanitized center of Manhattan, without vandalizing property in the process.
Below is a selection of examples I’ve caught since the beginning of the year, some parked, some merely stopped at traffic lights, causing me to move fast and capture them in less than optimal circumstances. I make no claims for these as photography, but merely as a record of public art, unsubsidized by public funds, that might go unnoticed or even unseen by many.
All photos © Howard Sherman