I’ve been documenting L.A. graffiti since 1990. I saw it starting with the KSN yard at Sunset and Fairfax and the Pan Pacific Auditorium in 1984, and thought it was interesting, but since my previous photography didn’t involve documentary, I didn’t think to catch it until I came down the hill by Belmont Tunnel just after the second Slick/Hex battle. I believe it was when I ran into Omega (touching up Hex’s piece) that she told me about Sanborn yard (where I met writers such as a very young Size, Mek, and Perk who introduced me to Skate and Delo), and then writers I met there and at Belmont (once they had seen me around enough to trust me) would tell me about other sites and so on.

My primary concern has always been simply that I felt a record should be kept of the interesting work. I didn’t think about publishing for a long time, but as I became familiar with the books out on graffiti, felt that there were aspects that deserved additional attention. Initial attempts to find an interested publisher some years ago were not successful, but in 2005, Jim Prigoff noticed how graffiti and so-called street art had become a welcome subject for publishers, and that the book Graffiti World had sold wildly beyond the expectations of its American distributor (H. N. Abrams). He urged me to get in touch with Abrams and that led to the present book. Thank you, Jim!

Once it seemed the book deal was actually going through, I had an excuse to finally sit down with many writers and ask questions that I’d always wondered about. What was so interesting to me were the subjects that came out of the interviews that I hadn’t thought about to begin with, from learning about caps to crew standards.

As it turned out, this is the arc of the L.A. story presented in the book:

  • Pre-hip hop, New York influence and early media exposure, early developments in key areas of the city
  • Technical and aesthetic Issues (early technical issues, paint, tips and color, size and scale, sketches, piecing devices/vocabulary, flipping the script/legibility, can control, fill, dimensionality, representational elements, content), the issue of style, L.A. inspirations, developing a personal style, and then pushing your own envelope. Then from graff as personal expression to graff as social expression, technical controversies within the graffiti community, technique and aesthetics now
  • The social element, comments on gangs, getting in (to a crew), crew dynamics (competition, collaboration, mentors: kicking down knowledge, crew standards), social elements now, career arc
  • Ethical Issues, degrees of illegality and vandalism, locations, views on mural bombing
  • Legal issues, penal codes, graffiti abatement authority, city regulation
  • Aboveground, education, gallery art

The deadline the publisher gave me was grueling (some published friends called it crazily unreasonable), but I was able to get many important writers’ voices into the book through interviews even if a few important ones slipped past. I tried to get at least one representative voice from all the major crews in, and most of the writers gave much appreciated cooperation. I tried to make sure that as many writers as possible that have had a strong contributing presence in L.A. would have at least one photograph of their work repped. Because of those constant intensive deadlines with picture choices, reviewing their edits, reworking the writing and so on and getting the layout and captions right, it was stressful, but at the same time an exciting challenge to try and “come correct” in representing the scene in a way that would be appreciated by L.A. writers first, world-wide writers second, and highly educational to those outside the scene that would like to understand it better. I’m reminded of talking to Panic who told me that though friends looking at a just finished piece of his might really like it, he would still see tons of little flaws that were too late to fix. I feel the same: I’m really proud of the scope, honesty and accuracy of this book even if I would like to fix some details. I look forward to getting feedback when the book comes out.

The back cover of the book is a detail of “Seven Samurai From The Eastside.” To see a cool video of the making of this mural, go to You Tube and search for “213 & The Seven Samurai.”

This is a shot of Skate (an alternate from the frontispiece of the book) from 1993.

26 Responses to “01) The Story Of “Graffiti L.A.””

  1. on 16 Oct 2007 at 12:17 amJim Latta


    Love your site.

    I managed the Pan Pacific auditorium in 1884-1985 and with my Partner Felipe, we opened it up to G-Artists.

    Soon out of NYC was there in ’84. WCA was formed there. etc. We got a lot of grief from the city in private. But at one point over 600 feet of wall was painted and we had weekend Paint rallies open to all L.A. G-Artists. Great memories. I have many unpublished and great photos of that time and pieces.

    I designed and painted the “Myshka” piece with Risk and Cooz. I was in love with her at the time and it was a Birthday present for her.

  2. on 12 Mar 2008 at 9:25 amAim

    Hey whats up!I am new in this site!
    Now listen!!
    I want to ask you a question…What do you think of my graffiti name…AIM

  3. on 05 Jan 2009 at 8:52 pmJAER


  4. on 03 Mar 2009 at 5:43 pmGrats

    AIM, is interesting it’s also the name for the American Indian Movement who began as a rebellion to the government trying to move Native Americans out of reservations into the city. They have done some really radical protest work if AIM is your name then you need to check them out!!!

  5. on 02 Apr 2009 at 8:54 pmashley

    it loooks interesting the guy shooting her

  6. on 20 Jun 2009 at 5:12 amJonathan

    Hi there,

    I use to run with Rival, miner and Pyro from WCA and was a founding member of KSN with Dread, Revolt and Rise.

    Man this was a long time ago…but a lot of fun.

    The yard at Sunset/Fairfax was cool.

    Lot of talent went to fairfax High at the same time: Rival, Pyro, P-jay, Scene, Skate, Rise, Revolt, Live, Dread, god knows who else…Thanks

  7. on 15 Jul 2009 at 7:54 amSTRYCH9 D2D DIS

    What about D2D? its up in the BOULEVARD KNIGHTS movie from 79 what about the whole harbor area? too bad no one took flicks back then. I grew up in wilmington carson and san pedro and I remember tons of graf in 1980 not just gang writing but early attemps at piecing. Its as if graf came from new york straight to hollywood and spread from there??? There were a few movies that came out and influenced people that were on public tv and regular tv I remember seeing “dreams don’t die” in like 82 or 83 on cbs which was a tv movie like wild style. wild style and style wars were on pbs. There was also turk 182 beat street and breakin all had some graf featured in it before 1985? 4 krews I can think of that really killed the freeways and pieced but got no mention KCC KOS D2D and OFA. I understand the space issue but really did you ever drive on the 110 405 or 710 ever?

  8. on 15 Jul 2009 at 11:05 pmsteveWP

    Thanks for writing, Strych9. I was always willing to drive to get shots of stuff if I heard about it. So that included Huntington Beach, Long Beach etc. and yes driving down the 110, 405 and 170, but while I may have seen bombs, I don’t remember pieces that would make me really take notice. When doing interviews for the book, the movies you mention were credited a number of times as important early inspirations. I don’t think the book is Hollywood-centric at all, but I’m not surprised to find out about overlooked crews, which is why I’m glad that guys like you are writing in. If you ever find someone with pics from that time, send them by.

  9. on 18 Sep 2009 at 4:35 amSiLoE'dInKiE'RKc


  10. on 23 Sep 2009 at 7:40 pmAEROONE


  11. on 28 Sep 2009 at 4:20 pmsero

    i like your wedsite is kool but why u dnt have so many graffity

  12. on 28 Sep 2009 at 4:20 pmsero


  13. on 19 Feb 2010 at 3:38 amC.J Reeves

    I’ve been doing graf since 89,,, just started tagging on brick walls with felt tip markers and china markers,, tag, bomb, mob, tryed to piece,,,, but the thrill of freeways kept calling me back???,, PEACE to ALL writers,, no matter where or how you do your thang!! Watch for 1-time bro’s! Late,
    Bleech 1 …….. D’s up!! O*C 2 IE!!! Who’s down to trade flicks?? hahahahha, SERIOUSLY!

  14. on 21 Mar 2010 at 9:29 amOg Kraze D2DiS4

    was up to all 26 cliks Down 2 Distroy In Secons krew hope u get up like us the 4rs . i like the website is the shit.thanks 4r the site.

  15. on 24 Mar 2010 at 8:55 pmjohn c

    Jim Latta,

    i am looking to speak with you if i could about your time at pan pacific auditorium?

  16. on 11 Jun 2010 at 5:18 pmjuan

    that shit looks dope

  17. on 14 Jun 2010 at 3:43 pmSoonOne!

    What up, SoonOne was the first NY style graffiti writer to do piece’s at the Pan Pacific back in 83 way before dude’s even thougt about doing graffiti and I started bombing LA in 82 for the dude’s who don’t no .

  18. on 06 Jul 2010 at 7:27 pm..SiCkO..

    wats sup all the taggers out der..its sicko frm dat tfskrew 2fs.right here in La Puente.wheres all the graff in dis website

  19. on 09 Jul 2010 at 9:56 pmmark7

    Lots of good stuff here,only wish i would have had a chance to meet the authors of the book and site personally,so i could share as much 80’s and 90’s history as possible.

  20. on 16 Sep 2010 at 10:52 pmalfonso hurtado

    u got are sick as fuck mad props yo

  21. on 24 Dec 2010 at 2:12 amBLEECH 1

    You should take up Mark7 on his reply……….you REALLY , REALLY should!! Peace to all writers! Dril DTDK QR………714

  22. on 27 Nov 2012 at 7:07 amog LA GRAFF WRITER

    80/81 LA’s first hip hop graffiti writer, no doubt is quikdraw from shake city rockers.

  23. on 03 Jun 2013 at 4:01 pmo.g. GNX

    yo om AMBUSH301 DTD2 ch. 85vers, any body no wudup wit my man OG MINNER DTD2 aint seen em since 1985 he gave me the name GYNX………..

  24. on 03 Jun 2013 at 4:13 pmo.g. GNX

    i got on when I was 7 I got a little homie named C.O.R.E 74 whilshr Dis. 7th AVE. props 2 all dim nigguzz gittn UP keep dropn SLITTATOMS……….

  25. on 14 Jul 2013 at 10:25 pmMORBID

    Hispanic mafia r.i.p feind sup asasn

  26. on 18 Jul 2013 at 8:35 pmj R

    just saying whats up to all…BSA, TIK, and NBT crews from Los Angeles. back in the early 1990’s

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