Photos of 2023 on BSA – #12: Shepard and Vhils and a Tale of 2 Truths in LA

We’re celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of the next by thanking BSA Readers, Friends, and Family for your support in 2023. Picked by our followers, these photos are the heavily circulated and “liked” selections of the year – shot by our Editor of Photography, Jaime Rojo. We’re sharing a new one every day to celebrate all our good times together, our hope for the future, and our love for the street. Happy Holidays Everyone!

In street art photography, there are at least two truths to keep in mind. Firstly, art doesn’t need to be freshly created to strike you as new. Our recent visit to LA proved this point. It had been some time since our last trip, so when we encountered the collaborative work of Shepard Fairey and Vhils for the first time this October, it left a lasting impression. We recalled their earlier partnership – possibly their first – seen in Lisbon. That piece was more vertically oriented, nestled tightly within a narrow street in a neighborhood. In contrast, the Los Angeles piece enjoys the luxury of space, allowing it to breathe and extend its impact.

Second truth: There are times when the unexpected intrusion of elements in your photograph can be surprisingly welcome and appropriate. Untrimmed palm trees, even when they sprout haphazardly in front of a mural, bring a certain tropical charm. Likewise, the diagonal lines of telephone wires slicing through the scene can enhance the mural’s collage-like quality, especially when it’s already interrupted with a window and a doorway. Los Angeles today mirrors this eclectic mix; it’s a city where contrasts hang heavily, a shattering of the myths. The sprawl of massive tent encampments and the random upcropping of people living on sidewalks, in cars, and under bridges – all these elements contribute to the city’s Dickinsonian “Tale of Two Cities” character in 2023. Writ larger, America today is extreme wealth and poverty side by side, with rumors of revolutions scattered about. Here, the portraits capture the Fairey glamour and the Vhils grit, each layer vividly entwined and textured, a visual echo of a jackhammer pounding away at the facade.

Shepard Fairey and Vhils collaboration in Los Angeles. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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