Graffiti research with Flickr

So you took a picture of some cool looking graffiti and it has piqued your interest. You want to know what it means, where it came from, and who put it there. Gone are the times when tags were a mysterious, obfuscated communication only to be understood by other artists and anthropologists. These days, you can be your own graffiti researcher with the simple use of Flickr. Here’s how it works:

1. Snap a picture of the tag. Here’s one I took the other day:

Les Crabs

2. Decipher the tag. This can vary in difficulty. If you’re not blessed with tag-deciphering skills, you can ask one of your more graf-savvy friends, or ask the Wooster Collective. In my case this is simple; I’m dealing with someone named “les crabs.”

3. Search on Flickr for the name. Also look at the Flickr tag for the name. If you come up with a big list of graffiti photos, you’re on the right track. If not, try adding the word “graffiti” to your query.

4. Do some research. Look at the other photos and take note of the Flickr tags, titles and comments. Graffiti photographers will usually give some details about the location. I see that les crabs is most prolific in San Francisco, but has also been seen in Oakland and Brooklyn:


Les Crabs in San Francisco


Les Crabs in Brooklyn


Les Crabs in Oakland

5. Upload your photo to Flickr. Add tags it with the city and the the name of the artist, maybe even geotag it. Be proud of the fact that you’ve joined the ranks of graffiti anthropologists around the world.

2 thoughts on “Graffiti research with Flickr

  1. very nice, but why are you continuing to pretend that the whole world doesn’t know that *you* are the tagger in question?

    it’s pretty obvious, no?

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