B’Ham’s Graff Scene

AYE JOKE TALKS PHOTOGRAPHY AND BIRMINGHAM’S UNDERGROUND GRAFFITI CULTURE

Zameen Brar, Editor

Aye Joke is a photographer, videographer and masked model based in Birmingham. Backpacker Hacker got in touch to find out more about his street photography and involvement in Birmingham’s underground graffiti scene.

First things first, you’re a masked model and artist, most people have no idea what you look like. What are you hiding?

I haven’t got anything to hide but the mask comes from growing up in the graffiti scene, obviously not wanting to show my face because of cameras and police. At the same time, I didn’t want anyone to know that I was a graffiti artist.

The whole model thing comes from Urbexing [urban exploration aka roof-and-tunnel hacking]. Because I was with photographers I didn’t want my face to be seen on camera. I would bring masks out to wear instead of wearing like a hood and a bally. Things went from there, modeling masks in abandoned buildings. I carried it on because of being paranoid. I don’t have a clue why I’m still paranoid about my face being on a photo, but I like that people see my work on instagram and wonder what the man behind the mask looks like.

Your photography seems to focus a lot on urban culture, why is that?

The streets have always been around, growing up in Birmingham and going to a school there, meant there were a lot of graffiti vandals and mc/rappers and gangs around… But I don’t know why I like urban, it’s just the vibe and looks.

It’s not something I got into, its just always been with me. Plus I ain’t really in to clean photos, I like to have some sort of dark moody look to my work.

Do you think graffiti artists are more interested in creating art, or in being part of an illegal subculture?

It’s hard to say because some ‘artists’ like to spend hours on one wall painting their name, then you get ‘vandals’ that just like to walk round and spray their name on anything. Me, I never had the patience to focus on one painting, I was more of a vandal.

Is there much politics in graffiti?

Yes… graffiti politics is bullshit, let’s leave it as that.

On your website you have a short clip titled graffiti documentary. What’s the story?

Because I ain’t painted in so long, or seen any old graffiti partners, I missed the whole graffiti scene; The missions, walking round looking for spots to paint, having to watch out for police. The whole rush of it. So I messaged a couple of crew members [CCS Crew], like let’s meet up and I’ll follow with the camera and document it for a change. Instead of being involved in the crime I’ll show the crime. I didn’t have any ideas what or where I’m going with it, I was just getting a few old graffiti members together. Just all have a laugh and do some damage.

You ever get caught painting?

I only ever got caught once and it was a random stop and search. They found 1 spray can in my bag so they took me the station got my details an finger prints then let me go with an N.F.A, “No Further Actions.”

As you know we are a travel site, if people are coming to Birmingham where’s the best place to see street art?

To see a load of graffiti then the main spots to go are Digbeth or Selly Oak graffiti park.

Lastly, some quick fire questions on where you hang out in Bham:
Best place for drinks:

I don’t drink so wouldn’t know, but visit your corner shop and ask for ‘grape bigga’ if you haven’t tried it.

Best place to shop:

A shop called “Projekt21” I don’t need to say no more just visit them or check them on instagram.

Best place to eat:

Shawma city.

Best place to party:

I go the odd rave when I can. I guess Digbeth is the place for me if I’m partying.

Any other places to check out in Birmingham?

Check out the shisha bars around Digbeth and Birmingham central. Good vibes and music.

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