Enter Bomb It, a documentary exploring graffiti and its influences all around the world, from the United States to Africa and Europe to Japan. Producer and Director of Photography Tracy Wares knew little about the subject as well, but appreciated the beauty of it.
“[Graffiti] is the gift of free art,” muses Wares. “It made my walks more interesting.”
However, many people do not share the same sentiment as Wares. “There’s a general view that graffiti artists are uneducated and thugs,” Wares states, “but not only do they spend a lot of time working on their art, they are also politically motivated at times.
“And, they are complete gentlemen,” gushes Wares, “with a deep sense of camaraderie.”
This doesn’t mean that the film is completely biased towards the bombers, though. Instead, everybody gets a voice, including authorities, allowing the viewer to sympathize with the tagger’s need to express himself or herself and the authority’s need to maintain public order and cleanliness.
Wares goes on to explain that, despite the fairly even-handed nature of the film, there’s a strong message of public space, particularly when it comes to billboards. The desecration of public space caused by graffiti can arguably apply to billboards and other forms of public advertisements.
“I began to really appreciate the way bombers view the city,” says Wares. “For instance, they utilize the back of billboards. They inhabit the landscape in a new way.”
No matter how expressive or impressive their art may be, though, what these graffiti artists do is still technically illegal. This led to difficulties in tracking down the artists.
“It was a long process,” explains Wares. “But, the taggers have an amazing network.”
Through networking, Wares and the rest of the crew were able to find a lot of the underground (and in the case of one Sao Paolo tagger, literally underground) artists. Not only that, but a bomber traveling to another country could find another bomber to stay with.
The illegality of the activity also led to some scares.
“We were in London, right after the subway bombings,” Wares recalls. “We went to an abandoned building to tag it, and the next thing we know we heard sirens outside, and someone was telling us to come out with our hands up.
“Apparently, someone saw a lot of cars pull up and people with backpacks going into an abandoned warehouse and called the cops. They thought we were terrorists or something. We thought we were going to get busted, but the cops had bigger concerns.”
Even though they only got off with a warning, many other bombers aren’t as lucky. Thus is the price of self-expression in a world where tagging is often the only way to do it.
Bomb It releases in select theaters June 6.