It’s good to have interests in something other than what we do every day for work, but in this instance I managed to combine a personal interest with some commissioned editorial photography.
Tracking down various pieces of street art for this editorial commission piqued my interest, which then led to a regular treasure hunt for Banksy’s work in London, LA and later, here in Melbourne.
I first came across Banksy’s work accidentally while out shopping for Christmas presents around 2004 in a temporary shop named Santa’s Ghetto set up just off Oxford Street/Tottenham Court Road.
There were works from numerous artists on sale, along with items such as the Di-Faced Tenner, which in hindsight I should have bought. It was only ten quid FFS!
I had no idea who Banksy was at this time, but I liked a couple of his screenprints so bought one for me and one for my girlfriend at the time.
For myself I chose a signed I Fought The Law (edition of 150) and the other was a signed edition (of 150) of Barcode / aka Barcode Leopard Tiger.
Priced at £150 at the time, the purchases felt a little extravagant but somehow money well spent. I toyed with the idea of buying another that I liked, but I simply didn’t have the spare cash.
Santa’s Ghetto popped up around London over a period of 4 or 5 years and each time I considered the idea of buying a few pieces I really liked, but the prudent and sensible side of me took over and talked me out of it.
I did pick up other prints over the years, including CND Soldiers, Donuts and Grannies as impulse purchases or by getting lucky in ballots, but all apart from signed edition of Radar Rat, I was never keen on hanging them on the wall so sold them on for a relatively small profit.
The Radar Rat in the small edition of just 75 would have been worth hanging on to since it was such a unique size and shape (12″ square) compared to his usual screenprinted works, but life in London can be expensive at times so I sold it on to pay some bills. In hindsight…
Once I had learnt more about Banksy and started to see his work popping up around town, I started to actively seek it out, with Shoreditch and Old Street revealing a few pieces, and later in Highbury, Portobello Road, Notting Hill and Essex Road, Islington.
In May 2008, Banksy organised the Cans Festival in Leake Street, a disused tunnel that taxi’s had only ever previously used to collect passengers from Waterloo Station.
The street was boarded up for ‘essential maintenance’ and artists including Banksy himself, Robert Del Naja, Blek le Rat, Dolk, Vhils and Eelus were allocated an area each to work their magic.
I popped down on a Friday evening after work and was wandering around taking photos of the new work when I noticed Ian Brown from The Stone Roses doing the same. After a friendly chat about Banksy’s work and which pieces we owned he happily posed for a photo with one of the new works.
That weekend, and following a front page story in a national newspaper, the Cans Festival received thousands of visitors, with many more in the weeks following the event. Surprisingly alot of the artwork stayed largely intact for a while with only a few taggers leaving their mark.
Leaving London to move to Australia, we took a small trip to California on route which was perfect for a bit of Banksy spotting, including the Out of Bed rat and the Fast Food Caveman.
After settling in Melbourne I tracked down the Little Diver which was directly opposite the Police Station on Flinders Lane, which has since been destroyed by some tool pouring paint behind the protective perspex.
I have dates and locations for the images below but please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to see something updated.
Excuse the quality of some of the images – many were taken on early digital pocket cameras so quality isn’t quite as good as you get on your phone today!
The copyright of the images featuring Banksy’s work on this site belong to me and all are available for licensing for personal or editorial use. Please get in touch to discuss your requirements.