From the category archives:

Street Art

Inviting New Yorkers to view their city from a more playful perspective, Aakash Nihalani has been creating street art which encourages dimensional disruptions since 2007. Through his impermanent interventions he seeks to “highlight the unexpected contours and elegant geometry of the city itself.” He’s currently developing a new series of works, in less urban environments, as the Lisa de Kooning Artist in Residence.

Aakash’s signature fluorescent isometric idiosyncrasies emerged when he was taping up his thesis show at NYU. He noticed the shadow of a pedestal which he decided to outline with tape. This observation led to further adhesive explorations, including fusing tape and cardboard, which Aakash eventually took to the street.

Check this fab clip on Aakash’s Stop sign piece in progress: Stop, Pop & Roll

“I kinda like the inevitable destruction. Making sure things last is a cumbersome task.”
– Aakash Nihalani, on It’s Nice That

Aakash’s works in New Delhi from late 2011

Images for Aakash’s Lacoste LIVE camapaign, shot by Mark Hunter

The Lacoste LIVE 2012 Spring/Summer campaign features Aakash, on the streets of New York, in their Unconventional Talents series
More recently Aakash has been producing works as the Lisa de Kooning Artist in Residence. From here he continues to explore and accentuate frozen moments while playing with our perspective preconceptions:

Note-worthy: Aakash’s lively take on Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog was actually shot from above, against a New York pavement:

Related posts:
Random Specific Musings from the Ramayana
Indo-French Street Skills

All images, with permission, from Aakash Nihalani


Enjoy Box
An aptly named slot machine I spotted in Bologna a few years back – dispensing cigarette papers, lighters & condoms. Little necessities for a good night out?
Related posts:
Quick-pic Tuesdays: Daily Needs
Indo-Italian Moves
Random Specific images on Flickr


Bombay continues to provide me with spicy new discoveries on every visit and this last trip was no exception. I stumbled on Wadi Bunder, a dense residential slum area peppered with truck decorators who were painting, welding, riveting, hanging, carving – anything to sweeten the deal on humble cargo trucks.

Truck painting in action at the hand of Battu Varma, who has been using trucks as his canvas since he was 15 years old

Diamonds are a truck’s best friend

Trunk line door panels

Welding custom truck body fittings

Carved panels adorn various parts of trucks – both interior and exterior

Hanging items accentuate a truck’s movement while delighting the eye

Various painters in action at Wadi Bunder

Telling it like it is
Related posts:
Painted National Pride
Overlap: Intersections of the Desi & Diasporic
Random Specific Indian Street Art Collection on Flickr
And if Indian truck decoration is your thing – check out my London-based, Indian-born buddy Kangan Arora,with her posts from further North.

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Sustainable fuel sign on recycle truck in New Delhi.

Check out more Random Specific images on Flickr


It was great to be part of the plan hatched by Akshay Mahajan & Kapil Das of the BlindBoys photography collective to expose the streets of Mumbai to expressive perspectives over the weekend. BlowUp Bombay was one part dynamic duo, one part global photographic talent and three parts street cred. It brought together image hunters who’s work was publicly showcased on the back of a number of earlier global BlowUp plots launched from Bangalore to Paris. (Illustration by Ronald Searle)

Image and display by Puneet Rakheja .

Twenty odd photographers were selected for the Mumbai event with locals invited to come along on the day and add their own work. The format was the humble A3 digital copy, the space sprawled across a few derelict blocks of Bandra and the audience ranged from residents to street sellers, photography fans to roadside romeos. Local children joined in to help put up the images and amusingly took on self appointed roles in protecting the displays.

Delhi BlowUp, 2009 (Photo by Kapil Das)

“As any artist will attest, street art is best made when unpredictable, subversive and not entirely legal… The Blowup events, where an ad-hoc public photo gallery is created using building walls and shop fronts as hanging space, have slowly accrued a devoted following.” – Mumbai Boss

Amongst the core group of exhibitors were prominent names like Bharat Sikka who lives between Europe and India and has shot for Vogue, Marie Claire, Wallpaper and the New Yorker. Adrian Fisk’s work has appeared in National Geographic, Vanity Fair, Paris Match and the Economist and I’m a particular fan of his documentation of the Indian Hair Trade (above: top). Central insurgent Kapil Das was joined by his partner in crime Akshay Mahanjan who’s images (above: bottom) have featured in Wired, Le Monde and the Wall Street Journal.

And then there was little old me who’s shots have appeared in the Guardian, CNN + Design Observer and who managed to be part of the whole conspiracy from way down here in New Zealand. Included in my submission was the series Jewelled for Life which was mainly taken amongst the desert tribes of Kutch where it’s said that tattoos are a permanent kind of jewellery that one takes to one’s death. Here’s a selection:

Lower image by Puneet Rakheja. Check out more of his coverage of the event.

“Life is on display on the street — people walk, sit, stand, sleep, drive, drink, eat, piss, talk, mingle, fight, and love. The street is where groups collide and where people live and die and where all of society mixes with trash, smog, sewage, and the pulsating sounds of traffic. We put together a bunch of our pictures there to bring them to you – where you’re standing, on the street.” – Blindboys

Related posts:
Writing on Walls
Street Art Gets Behind the Wheel


Berlin-based artist, Jan Vormann, diverts our architectural attention with his global Dispatchwork series. While shining a light on urban histories he celebrates the spirit of repair through his vibrantly incongruous restorations.
Still in his 20s, his artwork has taken him from cities as varied as Tel Aviv and New York (both above) to countries as diverse as Ecuador and Serbia with sponsors including the Amsterdam Centre for Architecture. Some works seek to merely mend weathered decay while others fill scars left by war, such as in Berlin’s Mitte neighbourhood.
Lego has produced more than 400 billion units since the 1930′s, deriving its name from the Danish phrase to “play well.” Relevantly Jan often employs an inclusive approach – enlisting the help of passers-by and even encouraging others to take up his approach and send him photos of their creations from across the globe. Other times he works alone, though admits that this can be demanding as in the case at a South American heritage church where he had to dodge thugs, nuns and security officers.
Jan’s streetscape interruptions playfully direct us to spaces-between, hidden-histories and untold-tales. And fittingly he uses a medium that we associate with unhindered childhood imaginings with which to fill the gaps.

Related posts:
Writing on Walls
Street Art Gets Behind the Wheel

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Indo-French Street Skills

January 9, 2010

I first photographed the work of French street artist C215 in Paris in 2007. This week here in Delhi I hit the streets of Karol Bagh to see if I could find any remaining examples of the works he produced in the vicinity late in 2008. It proved to be an ambitious task which led to many alley-way adventures.
Christian Guémy (aka C215: self portrait above in Delhi) resides in Paris where he has developed his distinctive street-art style. Armed with a Masters in Art History from Sorbonne and an arsenal of aerosols plus painting paraphernalia, he hits the streets with persistent zeal. He has taken his skills further afield to Casablanca, Dakar, Jerusalem, Sao Paulo and beyond, alongside gallery showings in Paris and London. He has collaborated with the Norwegian Children at Risk Foundation (CARF) to raise money for their projects in Brazil – where he also visited to give workshops to local youth and make his mark in surrounding favelas.

Back here in Delhi I located a handful of C215′s works which have survived. One old woman in a poor neighbourhood recalls “They brought so much energy to our area with children all crowding round to watch this strange foreign-type painting just for the love of it.”
Guémy gifted some works on paper to various locals plus stencilled t-shirts for young onlookers and boxes for shoe-shine boys. He fondly remembers one shy girl whom he gave a framed work – indeed she was too shy to be photographed by me with the piece but was happy to take it down from it’s proud perch in her tiny home and let me capture it being held by a neighbour. [below left]
Along the way I encountered frequent examples of Indian vernacular flair – from rickshaw decorations to juice stall signs – showing that creativity is alive and well in this crowded corner of Delhi… both local and imported.

Related posts:
Street Art International (Flickr)
Street Art Gets Behind the Wheel

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Painted National Pride

December 30, 2009

Visitors to India are frequently enchanted by the spirited decoration of trucks which traverse the nation. We are immediately drawn to the quaintness of English phrases like Horn Please which are commonly emblazoned on the rear of commercial vehicles.
However we often miss the assortment of Hindi phrases – the most common of which reads Mera Bharat Mahan (मेरा भारत महान) meaning My India is Great. This patriotic declaration was popularised by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in his campaigning efforts to evoke a spirit of modernity across the nation. It went on to become a favoured proclamation of Indian cricket fans. The slogan prevalently graces the tailgates of trucks which cross state and cultural boundaries in a diversely painted salute to national pride.

Sometimes the sentiment is translated into English…

And other times things get a bit jumbled…
Related posts:
Indian Street Graphics (Flickr)
Street Art Gets Behind the Wheel


Bollywood Poster-wallas

December 3, 2009

Last week I went in search of the handful of Bollywood poster wholesalers at the somewhat obscure Tilak market near Grant Rd Station in Mumbai. These dealers stock posters of the latest films for advertising use by movie distributors, large and small cinemas and a growing number of small DVD projection halls in villages and slums across the state. They also store a selection of older posters printed from hand-painted originals – though this is very much a secondary trade to their bustling wholesale enterprise.

Abid Hussain Vora is 78 years old and originally came to Mumbai from Bhopal in the hope of becoming a movie actor. Instead he got into film production and later started his movie poster business. Like mine, his all time favourite Bollywood film is Mughal-e-Azam (1960).
Rajesh Vora is the most recent in three generations of poster sellers encompassing 65 years of trade. His grandfather, the late Amrat Lal Vora, used to extract the silver from black & white film strips and later set up their poster business. His father, Chandra Kant Vora, notes that the film industry gives so much to this city and that his enterprise is a “soni ka line” (golden job). His favourite film is Naya Daur (1957).
Mansoor Ali Hussain, now in his 60s, was obsessed with film photos as a child but could not then afford to attend movies. Instead he chose this line which now also employs his son. His favourite film is Sholay (1975).
Today I headed to Chor Bazaar (Thieves Market) to seek out dealers of older, collectable posters. Abu Khan is the youngest in a line of antique traders who have done business here since the late 1800s. They buy posters and other Bollywood ephemera from auction and collectors. His favourite film is Aradhana (1969).
Lastly I enjoyed a fabulous visit to Shahid Mansoori’s shop that I have been frequenting on trips to Mumbai since childhood. At 55 he is the third generation of his family to work at Chor Bazaar. As a child he collected Bollywood images that came with chocolates and ice-creams and later this evolved into frequenting auctions, purchasing from collectors and scooping up the remains from rural cinema closures. Eventually he heeded the advice of friends to start a business and he now has 40 people sourcing items for him across the nation. His son, Wahid, is currently collating material for an upcoming exhibition in France. Mr. Mansoori’s favourite film is Nishant (1975).
Related articles:
Viva Vernacular
A Closet Full of Bollywood (Hindustan Times)

And if Bollywood kitsch is your thing you’ll probably also enjoy
my Backview Bollywood set on Flickr.


A Wind-swept Walk of Words

November 11, 2009

Wellington’s Blow Festival by the College of Creative Arts at Massey University hosted a Type-Walk this week on a blustery evening which lived up to the festival’s name. This didn’t deter the typo-centric amongst us who had turned up in numbers to the guided alphabetic amble. Highlighting the illicit alongside the historic – the walk encompassed character and characters from the Wellington cityscape.

Indicators of transitioning tenancy (above) were singled out on the Edwadian Baroque styled General Officer Commanding Building (1912) on the corner of Taranaki and Buckle Sts. It was originally built at the site of a former Maori settlement and is likely to be the country’s longest standing military administration building.
The Arthur St Boys Institute was built in 1906, in an interpretive Queen Anne style – which originally contained a gym, swimming pool and classrooms. More recently it has housed a printer and a musical institute and was moved 13 meters in 2005 to make way for the Inner City Bypass. It now attracts an abundant collection of street art.
Further down Cuba St was a coincidental sighting of Peaches & Cream set in Cooper Black – which had been referred to the day before in a public lecture by visiting Australian typographer Stephen Banham. He mentioned that he was initially so taken by the vibrant use of the 1920s typeface that he hadn’t realised that the sign (in a micro red-light zone) referred neither to seasonal produce nor dairy products!

Earlier this year Banham had devised his own urban tribute to type – Characters & Spaces: 1 City Block. 17 Stories. The comprehensive and highly successful initiative “takes one city block of Melbourne and peels back layers of graphic design. It tells stories we see in our visual environment, things we may pass every day… ”
Onwards on Cuba St we were directed to Catherine Griffiths typographic sculpture
A E I O U – 5 vowels in steel – launched earlier this year. Stitching together historic and contemporary buildings, the piece was commissioned by the local architects of the Cubana apartments (to the right of the sculpture). Catherine had been a significant driver of this year’s exceptional TypeShed 11 symposium at which I had the privlege of presenting.
On the corner of Cuba and Ghuznee, the former Hallensteins Brothers store was showcased. The founder Bendix Hallenstein had arrived in New Zealand from Germany during the goldrush and set up a menswear factory in Dunedin. This building was one of their 36 national branches, opened in 1920, which now houses Ernesto’s Cafe.
The Type-Walk made notable mention of various sightings of street art including the emerging form of urban or guerilla-knitting / yarn-storming or bombing. Its occasional inclusion of typographic characters and icons was discussed and I returned to the area today to snap this example on Vivian St.
Our typo-active guides were media designer Gerbrand van Melle and graphic artist Sarah Maxey. Gerbrand currently lectures at Massey University – a far cry from his native Dutch shores. He produced almost two decades worth of posters for the renowned Tivoli music venue in Utrecht which are being exhibited later in the week at the Blow Festival event: One Night Out. “Tivoli provided a playground to experiment with typographic and visual language and the opportunity to delve into experimental printing techniques.”
Sarah Maxey’s work has appeared across a range of print media from literary book covers to the New York Times and more recently in her fine stationery range . A fondness for hand-lettering features in both her commercial and exhibited work which often champions the happy accident. Earlier in the week she presented an exquisite selection of work while discussing the notion of Unexpected Outcomes.
Upon winding up the Type-Walk some of us headed down to the Matterhorn off Cuba Mall. I fondly remembered working next door some 20 years back when it was a kitschly Continental cafe which had been set up by Swiss brothers in its modernist building in 1963. (I still reminisce over their other-wordly asparagus rolls) It was later transformed by our good friends into the much-loved dining institution and wine bar that it is today. In keeping with its stylistic evolution, the Matterhorn was given a typographic make-over by my old pal and ever-talented colleague, Simon Endres, who has since ditched us to establish a design studio in New York. The Matterhorn provided us with a fitting spot to raise our glasses – for a celebratory toast to Type.

Related Articles:
Indo-centric, Typo-centric
Street Art Gets Behind the Wheel