October 6th, 2010
Stay Up by David Elizondo: An Interview with the Author
When I jumped head first into an obsession with Houston street art it was easy to realize that I had only made it into the kiddie pool. There were a whole host of other photographers, writers and, most importantly, the artists themselves that had been making waves without the aid of floaties for a long time. Luckily for me, the pros were rather accepting and willing to show me the ropes – even while they created new ropes altogether.
David Elizondo is one of those photographers who is blazing a new path. Set to release his book on Houston street art, Stay Up, he was gracious enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us. Friday, October 15th at War’hous he will unveil his book amidst the artwork of those he has documented. Being the aspiring street art connoisseur, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get his thoughts on the medium before the book hits shelves.
What first drew you to street art as a photography subject?
Well, I have appreciated graffiti/street art for awhile, especially while living in Austin and in Brazil, but it was not until about year and a half ago that I really started to document Houston street art. It actually started with a piece by a LA artist that had put up some posters in Houston. I was trying to find out his name and ran across work by DUAL and give up. I liked the imagery and the medium very much and wanted to find more.
Is there a certain medium (wheat paste, stencil, wildstyle) that impresses you most?
I think that wheat pasting in its various forms is my favorite, whether the image is screened, stenciled or hand drawn. However, I do really admire and respect work done by DTS, RTL, RTD crews (and their off-shoots).
Each piece could be literally here today and gone tomorrow. What would you say is the motivation for the street artists you know?
I believe all of them genuinely love making their art for the sake of making art. I also think part of it is the fact that it is not permanent, that nothing is forever. Some of these artists put many hours into one piece that might run for a day. I think the other part of it is being known and the acclaim and/or hate everyday citizens have for the work when they see.
What impresses you more, the placement of a piece or the artistic value of it?
Artistic value. Although, there some artists that placement is everything.
Would you be able to pick a favorite artist given that each style seems completely different?
That is really tough. Obviously the book focuses on artists that I really like. If you put a gun to my head I would probably say give up or 2:12. But, that is like asking a parent which of their kids they love more. I appreciate, respect and admire all these guys’ work.
Most of them don’t have titles, but some of my favorite pieces are:
give up: Telephone Poles
Weah: “To criticize the government is the highest act of patriotism” Elephant
DUAL: I Hate Cameras
Cutthroat: Emiliano Zapata w/rays
Ack!: Ack! eating pizza
Eyesore: “arm eater”
Shreddi: What do You Mean Its Not in the Budget
2:12: Anywhere but Here
Are their some artists, or at least taggers, that you wish would just put away the spray can instead of marking every light pole in their path?
Ha! There are definitely some, but I have enough going on in my life without starting beef with anyone.
In the end, most street art is illegal (in most cases). Do you feel guilty at all for helping to popularize this rogue art?
Not at all.
Who or what convinced you that a book on Houston street art was what the city needed?
Last year I had already accumulated hundreds of photos. I was talking to 2:12 and he suggested that I do something with them, like a book. The thought had crossed my mind before, as more of a fleeting thought, but since one of the artists was suggesting it I thought perhaps I could make it work. The idea behind it is that the art doesn’t last forever and it should be documented. Granted, nowadays with the Internet you can find many photos of work from these artists…but for me, and many of the artists, there is just something really nice about thumbing through a real book of photos.
Being that you are self-publishing, what have been some of the more difficult obstacles you’ve had to overcome during the process?
Definitely the cost of production. Because this is not a zine, but a full color book on heavy paper I had really no other avenue but to go through a print on demand website. Therefore the cost of each book is higher and this might be prohibitive when it comes to getting it into bookstores. Really the only other obstacle to compiling this book was getting with the artists themselves for photos. Most of these guys are very busy.
Have artists been supportive of you publishing or have they been reluctant?
They have been very supportive and helpful. Just them trusting me alone was a big deal for me. Ack! has been very helpful with getting stuff together for the release show. I also got help from other people such as photographer Shannon Reiswig and film maker Alex “Pr!mo” Luster.
What is your favorite photo in the book?
That is almost as hard as choosing a favorite artist. Perhaps the B&W night shot of give up’s Communion piece (the large print of a woman’s face with a razor in lieu of a wafer).
For the street art fans out there wanting to take their own photos, what recommendations would you give them?
Take some time to frame the shot to show how great the art is. Even if you are taking the photo with a crappy cell phone camera, take a few more seconds and get the shot right. There are photos in my book that I didn’t do that as well as I should have but I didn’t get another chance to shoot the piece before it was buffed and that bums me out. I guess beyond that, learn to look in the right places. Most people don’t pay attention to the call boxes at intersections, but once you notice some posters on them your eyes always seem to be drawn to them at a red light.