Public Wall Writing in Philadelphia

Books — Doctor Ninja on January 7, 2008 at 11:34 am

There’s nothing better than scribbling on a wall. Mark makers making their mark wherever they may roam. For some, it’s proclamations of love, for others it’s a way of tracing their steps through a world of urban dystopia. And sometimes it’s just a way to burst the bubble of boredom that is waiting for the train. These days it’s also a felony. Maybe that’s why writing on the wall has turned into an extreme sport rather than a public forum. Now that scribbling, “I love my Mom” or “Cornbread was here” on the side of a bus depot can get you cuffed & caged it takes a certain amount of guts to leave your mark. Just putting the pen to the wall marks you as a criminal.

Not that writing wasn’t always illegal, but back then the worst punishment was community service. They made you buff walls along with other writers… a good time to plan the next story. Today it’s a high stakes game for public space… one fueled by corporate vandals who pay police protection so they can advertise on everything in sight. Today it’s an ass beating followed by a prison sentence. If “Monique” wants to advertise her love for “Tony” with a ballpoint pen she can do from inside a jail cell, not on a wall reserved for a five-foot tall hamburger from McDonald’s or seventy-five feet of Kool Nike Menthol cigarette swooshes. This book takes you back to the days when walls were big blank canvases with plenty of room to spray paint heartfelt sentiments like “Damn right Fuck Rizzo!” and “Peace & Love, North Philly Soul – Jimi Astro in ‘75”. Can it be that it was all so simple then?

Looking at Public Wall Writing in Philadelphia is like looking at footprints in the snow. There are no introductions, no text, and no explanations. Each photograph is a chapter in the Philly story told by the people who live there … mysteries, love stories, and a thousand biographies all on the same page.

The Megawords Magazine crew dug deep into the Urban Archives of Temple University Libraries to find these 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s black and white gems. These photos have something that most “graffiti” books lack… sincerity. Sincerity aka “keeping it real” is essential, so big ups to Megawords & Free News Projects for this book… keep writing… books, walls… whatever.

Public Wall Writing in Philadelphia
96 pages, black and white, two-color perfectbound softcover, 9.5 x 13.5
Published by and

Public Wall Writing in Philadelphia

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