Published on February 14, 2014 | by Juliet Atto0
Off the wall and on the net
Street art is one of the biggest parts of the London art scene.
Mark Rigney, 38, is the creator and editor of one of the biggest platforms that showcases this kind of art, not just from London but also globally.
With his Hooked blog, Rigney has been able to document and store the ephemeral art of the streets.
From Ireland but based in East London for nearly 13 years, Rigney easily finds inspiration for his photography: “Since I live in Shoreditch there’s always something happening. On any given Saturday you have four or five people painting and you just stroll around, and I always have my camera with me so you’re bound to find something,” he said.
“My friends are used to finding me climbing some lamp post trying to get a photo of something. It’s always good to bring a camera wherever you are because you never know when you’re going to see something. You always have to be ready and it’s not that difficult carrying a camera even if it’s just a small compact one.”
After achieving a degree in visual communications in Ireland, Rigney came to LCC as a mature student in 2011 to take the ABC Diploma in Photography: “I worked in advertising for six years and then kind of got to the point where I didn’t enjoy going to work. It was kind of fun and I made lots of money, spent lots of money. One of my blogs had a lot of photography on it, so I thought it’d be good to learn some more, improve on my skills and learn some technical stuff.”
‘Life’s too short’Rigney recalls the moment he decided to leave his full time job in the pursuit of his education: “I had a Skype call with my parents because I was kind of depressed, and they just told me to quit. I was like ‘who are you and what have you done to my real parents.’ Both of my parents were like ‘life is too short, there’s no point being somewhere you’re not happy.’”
Although initially finding going back to university scary, Rigney’s worries quickly disappeared after spending time at the art-filled college. “It was inspiring going back and nice being in a building where stuff goes on all the time. The exhibition space is always changing and you just see what everyone else is doing. There’s great energy going on in that place and I was kind of sad I didn’t do a masters degree or something longer.”
Despite now being immersed in the world of street art, Rigney wasn’t always in the know:
“I kind of stumbled into this subculture of London, this street art world. When I moved to London and started seeing stuff on my way to work I was like ‘oh, this is kind of cool, who did that and who did this?”
“When you’re on a daily route and you’re taking the same one every day you kind of see similar things. But the council started cleaning up the streets and all of a sudden these things that would break up my mundane commute would disappear. Then I thought I should just take pictures of it and document it, because it’s so ephemeral and it disappears. Some things might stay for years, but some might be gone in an hour.”
The fact that street art can be there one minute, and gone the next, works well with the instant social media age.
Rigney explains: “In the world that we live in now, with Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, people consume images in a different way. You probably spend less than a minute looking at a picture before you move on to the next one. In an instant you decide whether you like something or you skip it.”
However, despite social media platforms’ ability to help document ephemeral art, they also have their ills: “We’re at a really interesting time now, because everyone is a photographer in some aspect and the internet is a huge beast because you have people stealing images and then you’ve got people using filters and having different perceptions of what good photography is now as well. It’s all subjective but that’s what makes it interesting. If we all liked the same stuff I guess the world would be quite boring.”
Despite the many followers Rigney’s blog has, he’s decided to not run it as a business and include advertisements: “I guess I’ve just chosen not to go down that route, although it would be nice to make a revenue from the site. It will happen eventually, but now I’m just happy that people are on it and enjoying the pictures of what’s going on.”
However, the bills still need to be paid and Rigney has been doing plenty of freelance work for the past year: “Recently I’ve been doing some freelance advertising work, because during this time, December, January, February, it’s very quiet around here, so I’m fortunate that I have such a varied background. I can just go and do some design work and go back and do some creative art work or I can do photography.”
“My friends are used to finding me climbing some lamp post trying to get a photo of something. It’s always good to bring a camera…you never know when you’re going to see something.” Mark Rigney
Except for traveling around the world in the quest for unique art, Rigney has goals beyond his blog for the future: “Possibly I would like to do a book at some point. It’s great to have stuff printed. It would be nice to have a book in the British Library with my name on it and you’d be able to go ‘that’s my book’,” he said.
“It would be a huge amount of work, but it’s something I will definitely consider. There are so many photo books so I would have to work on an interesting angle so someone would pick my book over someone else’s. I need to work on that this year and formulate a plan and work on something that will make it stand out.”