The Street Art Community Loses its Most Famous Historian: James Prigoff

James Prigoff was an American photographer whose life work focused on documenting public murals, street art, and graffiti. He passed in April 2021, at the age of 93, and his departure signifies a great loss in the street art community.

Mr. Prigoff set himself apart as a street art historian. His documentation of public art is considered one of the most extensive collections of photographs by a single individual. 

Born in New York City, Mr. Prigoff started noticing the saturation of graffiti in the subway art culture in the 70s. He was interested in how this art was capable of traveling on its own and eventually produced “Spraycan Art” in 1987 with Henry Chalfant. It became one of the first books that documented the New York City graffiti writing subway subculture and spread awareness of this new art form across the world.

As we at MBGG always like to emphasize: documentation of public art is just as important as the art itself. The nature of street art is ephemeral, always subjected to being destroyed or covered up. Therefore, Mr. Prigoff’s work is vital to our community.

James Prigoff impacted the way the world looked at graffiti. He was able to change people’s preconceived notions. Something that it was once demonized and considered vandalism can now be appreciated as a breakthrough in the art movement. 

It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Mr. Prigoff. On behalf of all street artists, we thank you for your extensive dedication to our cause.

We leave you with some of James Prigoff’s iconic photographs:
Photograph by James Prigoff
Photograph by James Prigoff
Photograph by James Prigoff
Photograph by James Prigoff
Photograph by James Prigoff

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