Digital Graffiti


“Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe then any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.” – Banksy

Of course, Banksy was talking about street ads. But Internet ads are no different.

You should free to comment on ads in any way you wish. I use random emojis and insert the occasional quip on Instagram ads. I also call them out, such as when a marketing services firm used a Leonardo DiCaprio image from Wolf of Wall Street to promote themselves.

Does Instagram even have a creative review process? All it (re: Facebook) wants to do is cut corners to make Wall Street happy.

Instagram is no longer an imaginary world. Instagram is no longer an imaginary world.

All content is advertising. But inserting ads between beautiful images is a paradox. Instagram is exchanging art for commerce, treating its users as dupes.

But creators aren’t stupid. They know that they’re other ad-free places to show off their galleries. The VSCO Grid is one of them.

The wave of the future

The friendliest way to monetize content is subscriptions. YouTube announced an ad-free service this week. The Financial Times is still behind a paywall. Drip is a service that allows fans to subscribe to music catalogs. I can’t wait to pay SoundCloud’s monthly fee for an ad-free experience.

No one wants or likes ads. They ruin experiences. What I love about watching soccer is that there aren’t any commercial breaks. Watching an NFL game, on the other hand, is a sequence of ad, replay, ad, and more ads.

The Internet should be ad-free. Fans have shown that they are willing to pay with their wallets, exchanging money for a cleaner experience. We don’t another 50 years of traditional advertising.

An interview with Manuel Zavaleta (aka StyleEngineers)


Manuel Zavaleta is a multi-talented artist based out of Queens, New York. He’s also an incredible colleague and good friend. We recently grabbed some lunch at a burger joint near his studio. Take it away Manny… Who are you and what do you do? My name...

Manuel Zavaleta is a multi-talented artist based out of Queens, New York. He’s also an incredible colleague and good friend. We recently grabbed some lunch at a burger joint near his studio.

Take it away Manny…

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Manuel Zavaleta. I’m a former graffiti artist and video producer turned graphic designer, photographer, and now entrepreneur. Art is my creative release.

What are you currently working on?

I operate a photography studio in Queens called Style Engineers. I shoot there personally but am more focused lately on leasing the space out to photographers. Both Van Styles and Tracy Morris recently used my studio for some of their work. I enjoy offering other photographers a concierge service, making sure they have all the right equipment, wardrobe, and amenities needed to have a seamless shoot.

Some day I’d like to open up my studio to young art students and give them a few lessons on the basics of photography like Cooper Union did for me growing up. Having a “physical space” to play is important; it inspires creativity.

Where do you like to work?

I work best in a studio environment or out in nature. I prefer to be on the move rather than sit still in a chair. So getting out to the studio where there’s natural light and a good space allows me to get into the flow and rhythm like I used to do with graffiti.

Any there any similarities/differences between graffiti and photography?

Absolutely.


“The craft of photography reminds me of graffiti.”


Once you spray something, it’s permanent. The aerosol is not tangible. The same thing happens when you click the camera, the photo is done. Both mediums are light, air and time. The art is really in your eye and movement. My friends say I look so happy in the process. You can go in with a concept in your head but you really can’t plan for the end product. But I don’t do graffiti any more.

What motivates you?

I think every artist want to be remembered like Rembrandt. But artists need to live to so that’s why I rent out the studio. The studio business is my entrepreneurial side. That friction between art and commerce is essential. The hardest part is the marketing and advertising.

What was your earliest ambition?

I always wanted to make album covers. Growing up in the 90s hip-hop era will do that to you.

Who’s your inspiration?


“Entrepreneurs are my gangsters.”


But not in the bad sort of way. You can do renegade art with class as Marc Ecko and Benjamin White both show. The entrepreneurial bug also runs through my family, especially my mother. In fact, her passing was the reason I got into photography. I needed an emotional release and now photography presents new opportunities.

You can find out more about Manuel’s work online here:

Clean Trains


The only place most people can see NYC subway graffiti is on social media.

The primary place New York City subway graffiti lives today: #cleantrain on Instagram

The graffiti never dies, it just gets cleaned off before the trains depart the train yard to go public.

‘City as Canvas’: an exhibition of New York graffiti art


It conveys the urgency of its creation; graffiti was, after all, a crime committed in haste, at night and under precarious conditions.

The world is a canvass, as it is for advertisers. The only difference is that graffiti artists pay through rebellion.

Right Bansky?