Freddie Fraser Forsyth and filmaker/photographer Will Robson-Scott are dedicated to pushing graffiti culture forward. Their first book, Crack & Shine, celebrated their hometown of London in never-before-experience detail. They didn't stop there. Crack & Shine International, the duos second publication, unveiled an honest portrayal of how style, influence, and history come together to make the art what it is today.
Crack & Shine has also progressed beyond static image to blossom as a Internet documentary series produced in partnership with Vans. Scouring the world for new talent, Robson-Scott's videography makes each episode a must watch.
Complex.com linked with Will Robson-Scott to talk about the new season of Crack & Shine International and the challenges of revealing the global graffiti underground.
Get us up to speed. How did you met Freddie Fraser Forsyth and where did the idea for Crack and Shine develop from?
Me and Fred met via hurtyoubad (the only decent English based graff site). I had been working on a series of photos focusing on London graffiti writers and they blogged a link to my work. From that we met and had a shared love of London vandalism, we were also very wary of the usual graff publications we wanted to make a coffee table book that stood the test of time but one that also focused on a scene that had been overlooked by the mass influx of street art.
Detroit has its problems but the people there are very positive and upbeat. Paris is a romantic mess.
Did you have a background in graffiti? When did you get into shooting it?
Yeah , I was always friends with writers and my second secondary school was infested by them. I didn't really start shooting it until I decided to go university and do photography and was given a portrait project that I decided to do on writers.
How did you get involved with Vans? How has the brand helped push the series forward?
Fred met the client at Vans through working on the soon to drop Hurt You Bad Magazine. The relationship has allowed us to reach a much broader audience with the project, and in may ways have allowed the project to delve further in to culture globally.
How does Crack & Shine connect to the history of Vans? It seems an ideal partnership in terms of connecting elements of youth culture?
Vans is one of the few large multinational companies that actually has real roots in youth and street culture- so from that point of view they were the natural fit for Crack & Shine to collaborate with. There are so many natural connections between graffiti and skateboarding as well, I don't think it would've made sense to of worked with a brand that isn't Vans to be honest.
Tell me a little more about the scope of the current series—which cities did you visit and what did you find exceptional about each?
Each city's culture reflects it graff. Detroit is chaotic yet beautiful and you have remember your not in some zombie/cowboy/Apocalypse film. Detroit has its problems but the people there are very positive and upbeat. Paris is a romantic mess. Parisians are a breed onto there own, very self centred and confident but don't really care about whats going on unless it directly affects them. Copenhagen seems quiet on the surface and when i was there it was awful weather but theres a very healthy scene there, that has produced world famous crews Barcelona is also a beautiful city and i feel that if your not Catalan you can feel an outsider, there scene is similar to Paris in a way.
How do you find your subjects? What I love about Crack & Shine is that it pushes beyond the normal scope of graffiti as presented on the internet, and offers a proper look at the form in most contemporary articulation.
The subjects have to be interesting and willing to let us into there world, its asking a lot, but our goal was to always do something a bit more in depth. My background and influences are focused on long term projects and this is what Crack and Shine is. It's embedding yourself with the subject to try to show the truth behind the name on the wall
You shoot stills and video. Is there a challenge in skipping between the two? How do you think working in both mediums equates to a personal style?
The challenge occurs when you want to shoot both, people think because a camera might shoot both you can do both, but you need to really focus on one you the other. As far as style I don't know, the subjects that interest have similarities and my focus on people doesn't change between mediums
These books have allowed for some extensive travel. What are some of the most notable things you've learned about graffiti? Where are the most surprising local twists?
Yes the books have let me travel extensively which is the great about the project. The writers that we involve in C&S are usually ones that interest for a specific reason and are all active illegally , writers are interesting characters and there many stories. Twice and gear from Amsterdam are two real characters they are bombing partners through and through and I'm unsure if there drinking or bombing is more impressive. Paris is a city were the more obvious and confident you look the more likely you'll get away with it
Also, you've come into contact with a great many personalities. Any particularly memorable anecdotes?
Horfe's dancing is pretty good
I've been robbed , seen fights, been hit by a girl, seen people smoking crack etc, and this usually occurs on the top deck.
Your personal work also proves an interest in character. The short film on the rapper who tattooed his eye is quite memorable. How did you link with that, and what attracts you to those types of documentary experiences?
I shot a project on the grime scene in London , and Popek frequents the scene. I was actually approached by him to do the video and the procedure baffled me so much, it's pretty horrific thing to do and there is no going back
What about working with Ricky Powell? Do you admire his work? Has he influenced you?
Ricky is a character , and from the first second I met him I wanted to shoot a video on him. He is a proper new yorker , and to me sums up all the eccentricities of what a new yorker is. His work is timeless due to it's content , as far a influence Ricky doesn't care what people think which can be admirable or be very irritating , I think it's pretty admirable
We've discussed your Top Deck project before. Did the process of that project change how you looked at a city? And, if so, did it refine how you approached the Crack & Shine work?
I grew up getting buses in London: I've been robbed , seen fights, been hit by a girl, seen people smoking crack etc, and this usually occurs on the top deck. The process of shooting Top Deck was strange, there are a lot of constraints you basically wait for something to happen beneath you . Travelling on the top deck give you a great perspective of London, you can get a bus that goes through the financial district and end up in the hood. It did not change my perspective in regards to C&S though.
What else do you have lined up for 2012?
I'm spending the rest of 2012 in the states, then who knows 2013
Head to the next page to view Crack and Shine International Season 2 Episode 2, Paris.