Jon Naar obituary

By Roderick Bailey

Photographer who recognised graffiti as a distinct subculture

During the winter of 1972-73, the photographer Jon Naar, who has died aged 97, walked the streets and rode the subways of New York, taking shots of spray-can graffiti. At the time these displays were generally considered to amount to little more than vandalism: the mayor had recently declared war on them.

Jon's pictures were distilled into the book that made his name, The Faith of Graffiti (1974). Complementing an essay by Norman Mailer, he used his images to acknowledge graffiti as a distinct, modern subculture in a troubled and changing city, and its protagonists as marginalised youth. Mailer's framing of graffiti as acceptable expression may go too far for some, but Jon's photographs remain a document of New York history, establishing his reputation as an astute and arresting chronicler of American street art and its contexts.

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