Can you tell us about how you got into graffiti?
I started around 1982. As a kid, I was fascinated by the power and brutality of the written word on the street. Political slogans, poetic texts and pseudonyms were very present in the streets of Amsterdam. I was under the assumption that people behind graffiti should be real rebels. They were probably the people who fought the police during riots. There were a lot of riots in those days. I looked up to them and therefore I wanted to make graffiti as well.

Why do you choose graffiti as your form or self-expression?
Becoming famous with an invented name in an anonymous way was awesome. It is a unique combination of adrenaline and creativity. You have to communicate in an effective and aesthetic way while you are under stress because it is illegal. This provides interesting results. There is no other subculture where this weird combination is present.

Where did the idea for this book come about? And how did you get involved with this project?

It always bothered me when I heard graffiti artists about the history of European graffiti. It was told that this came over from New York in 1985. That it was a Hip Hop culture from America. While there was already a very intense graffiti scene in Amsterdam for a long time. And also a kind of graffiti that was very present in the street. So it was a must for me to tell this story.

What are the origins of graffiti in Amsterdam?
The graffiti made by punks and city kids. The graffiti from back then was actually a blend between a logo and a signature. Your pseudonym was the brand.

What makes the Amsterdam graffiti scene so unique?
It was the first graffiti scene in Europe that was active on a large scale and had developed its own visual culture. With own letter shapes and styles.

You tell the story of Amsterdam and graffiti up to 1985. Why this time frame?
In 1985, graffiti in Europe became a hype due to influences from New York. This was because of the book Subway Art and the movie Style Wars. This was great but that period is less interesting to publish now in book form because a lot of books have already been made about it. There are many graffiti books on the market anyway. Graffiti is temporary and therefore it is important that it is captured by photography and the accompanying stories behind it.

Why do you think it’s so important for this story to be told now?
Many enthusiasts are not aware of the graffiti culture in Europe before the New York influences came. Because this story is unique in its kind, it is interesting for people. It is art-history of Europe.

Interview SARAH OSEI