I was fortunate enough to photograph the new Banksy piece “Mobile Lovers ” in Bristol near the Broad Plain Boys Club in Clement Street.
I got to the location reasonably early and was taking photos of Banksy’s piece before all the media circus began so managed to get some really lovely shots of everyday people visiting. Early on there was a council street cleaner who realised what the piece was and quickly took a snap on his phone before carrying on. Soon after that quite a few council vehicle’s turned up to take more photos as, I suspect word was passing around. Finally there were media photographers as well as film crews rolling up, along with some folks from a local radio station for interviews. I guess it’s to be expected when Banksy rolls out one of his pieces, especially in Bristol. While all this was going on I kept shooting and watched as Dennis (from the boy’s club) chatted to the various visitors and members of the media, in a couple of cases he gave interviews talking about when they realised what they had on their doorstep, he outlined his plans for the piece and why he was planning to remove it.
Over the course of the day I watched as people came and went; some stopped to admire the piece, there were discussions about street art and Banksy, some folks took photographs, while some just admired the work in silence. Eventually the task of removing the piece began and, as I am a photographer and it’s what I do, I documented that as well. The board was removed and then taken inside the boy’s club building. All the time I was photographing the work I watched as other visitors arrived and were shown into the boy’s club to see the Mobile Lovers. Dennis would talk to people about the club and it’s work. He’d talk of how they were a charity and as the visitors were taken through to see the piece he would mention that a donation to the club would be appreciated. Some people gave and some people didn’t.
So, while I don’t want to get dragged into the right and wrong of the situation as I am the photographer not the lawyer or the art expert, when a started seeing it reported on the news and internet saying the boy’s club were charging people a fee to see the piece I couldn’t help feeling disappointed. It felt to me that maybe the media were deliberately misquoting him or twisting the truth just to make more of a story. There was already a lot of, I guess I could call it tension, around the piece and it has just felt like the media have been embellishing the story to goad people against each other.
Just for the record (and for whatever it’s worth to anyone who might care), I was there most of the day and I saw nobody being charged a fee to view Banksy’s piece either before or after it was taken inside the boy’s club. What I saw was people being given free access to see the work and as part of their experience they were given a guided tour of the boys club along with some information about it and they were asked, if they would like to, could they drop a donation for the charity.
It’s also been reported that the were four boxers on guard, kind of implying four huge bruisers hulking and looking menacingly at everyone who passed by. Again, that was a bit of exaggeration on the part of the media. One of the activities the boy’s club is well known for is training the boys in boxing. So, as you’d expect when Banksy drops one of his pieces of street art outside the boy’s club, a few of the boys from the boxing group were sitting on the side doing what teenagers often do… Watching as all the fuss occurred. It was all a bit relaxed and pleasant, something that the media probably felt wasn’t necessary to report.
I do feel very lucky to have seen the Banksy’s new piece, “Mobile Lovers” (I don’t know if that’s what he calls it but the name suits), in situ and for me it was perfectly placed. Something that many people will not see now that it has been removed is that it was placed in such a perfect way to work with the streetlight just next to it. Also, viewing it at night was far better as the paint itself had an luminescence to it that made the image glow slightly, as you’d expect from a pair of mobile telephones. I would have loved to have had the chance to take a night shot of it!
However, if you do want to go and see it it is currently (right now in fact according to a photo I just saw on Twitter) being mounted in the Bristol Museum on Queen’s Road. It is probably going to remain there over the Easter Holidays while the dispute over ownership is resolved.
All I can say is, while I love street art and enjoy photographing the pieces and stories that revolve around it, it sometimes saddens me to see the problems that it can create. In this case it’s people’s reaction to Banksy’s fame that is ultimately the issue and there will be some unhappy people when the piece finally finds its new “approved” home.