Political Graffiti: A Brief History in Images


Robert Capa, [Anarchist graffiti, Santa Eulalia, Aragón front, Spain], 1936 (623.1992)


Dan Weiner, [Graffiti protesting the government’s removal and resettlement of Africans to reserves, Sophiatown, South Africa], 1954 (752.1974)


Charles Pratt, Edge of City, 1960 (65.1996)


Susan MeiselasWall graffiti on Somoza supporter’s house burned in Monimbo, asking “Where is Norman Gonzalez? The dictatorship must answer,” Nicaragua, 1978 (2008.86.4)


Henry Ries, Brandenburg Gate, September 1989 (2.1991)


Joseph Rodriguez, Estrada Courts housing projects, East Los Angeles, from the series East Side Stories: Gang Life in East LA, 1993 (2006.43.43)

GRAFFITI: Form of visual communication, usually illegal, involving the unauthorized marking of public space by an individual or group. Technically the term applies to designs scratched through a layer of paint or plaster, but its meaning has been extended to other markings. Graffiti is widely considered a form of antisocial behaviour performed in order to gain attention or simply for thrills. But it also can be understood as an expressive art form.

Concise Encyclopedia

About erinbarnett

Director of Exhibitions and Collections at the International Center of Photography, New York
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3 Responses to Political Graffiti: A Brief History in Images

  1. wow. i was just talking with a friend about how magnificent some photographs of graffiti can be, just by the fact they snap a very brief – often fleeting – image.

    very beautiful images, thanks for sharing.

  2. Alexis says:

    These are powerful images. Thank you for posting. I have seen many similar to the Norman Gonzalez graffiti in Russia and Belarus.

    I photograph and write about similar political street art in the contemporary post-Soviet region:

  3. Julie K. says:

    Great post and well chosen pictures to illustrate how large the street art spectrum really is.
    I agree with that broader definition and I would like to especially stress that graffiti can also play a very important role as it often encompasses a strong (political, social or cultural) message and as it takes some time to remove – people on the street see and think about it. Just one look at Banksy’s work is enough.

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