I know I bang on about graffiti a lot. I know, ok? It started a long time ago, and in the last eighteen months, it’s became a habit to notice stuff around me, take a photo of it, then… not really do much else. It’s not just the old graffiti I notice either, although that has more of an emotional pull on me
; it’s the modern stuff too. Norwich is an independently minded
city, with a bolshy attitude, and there are conversations and statements happening
across the concrete of the fine city all the time.
A lot of it is tagging, like in most places, which I confess to finding fairly dull and mindless, in itself, although the motivations behind it intrigue me. But quite often, it’s about debate, protest, or leaving a message. This is the part that has really got its claws in me, I suppose. That need to make your voice felt in a way that will last longer than just speech. Sometimes, it’s a declaration of love
Sometimes it’s about making a point
Sometimes, it’s just as simple as saying ‘I am here.’ Right now, right here, right in this moment. As soon as I’ve finished leaving this here, I’ll be gone. But for now, I am here. People feel a need to make their...
The things that often provoke people into making these is often that they feel marginalised in some way. Disenfranchised, unimportant, not listened to. So they find a way of imprinting themselves onto something solid. Even if they feel they don’t have anything to say, they just leave their name, quite often only their initials, just so their existence won’t go unrecorded.
But with the rise of social media, a new form of graffiti has emerged - the selfie. Another way of placing ourselves onto people’s walls. Making our presence solid. People do it for all sorts of reasons, but the effect is the same. It might be because you’ve been challenged to put up a no make up selfie.
It could be because we’re bored and titting about.
It could be to send to a friend to thank them for paying for you to have your hair cut.
But one thing I keep noticing, especially on twitter, is that it’s often people who have ‘hidden’ illnesses who post the most selfies. Maybe mental health problems, or chronic fatigue, or for whatever reason, find it hard to leave the house. People who, from the outside, seem fine, when actually life is harder, and it’s more of a struggle to keep up. People who feel overlooked, who feel they’re not listened to, people who feel outside the rest of the population.
I take quite a few selfies, as you’ve seen. I don’t usually share many. But for some reason, I find it reassuring; to be able to look at a photo of myself and say ‘That’s me. I was there. I am here. I’m still here.’ No matter how I’m feeling when the photo is taken, it’s a record of my existence. It might not have the permanence of scratching my name and date into stone, the semi permanence of spraypainting a wall, or even just scribbling on a poster with a felt tip pen, but it is a marker. The arrow on the map that says ‘You are here’.
Whether I’m bored
I am here.