An art-felt cause

Hedley Bishop left and Jim Lambert and their book
Hedley Bishop left and Jim Lambert and their book
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“IT’S a very frustrated feeling you get,” so said legendary graffiti artist Banksy, “when the only people with good photos of your work are the police.”

This, it seems, is no longer a problem for Sheffield’s community of street sprayers.

For a new book featuring incredible images of Steel City graffiti is set to highlight the fact that, while some work isn’t strictly legal, it is rarely anything less than breathtaking.

And these exclusive pictures are perhaps the proof.

“When you walk inside an abandoned warehouse and you’re met with this huge and incredibly intricate mural, it’s like you’re walking into your own personal art gallery,” says the man behind the project, Hedley Bishop. “You feel privileged just to be looking at it.”

It’s a feeling he and fellow photographer Jim Lambert wanted to share with others - and, as such, the pair spent six months snapping some of Sheffield’s most impressive examples.

“What started it was this idea that if someone didn’t record what these guys were doing it would eventually disappear,” says Jim, a 55-year-old builder of Netherthorpe. “And that didn’t seem right. These are works of art that deserve to be seen and to survive.”

The couple were already working together on the super-popular Pictures Of Sheffield Old And New website - an online archive of more than 15,000 submitted photos of the city’s past and present.

But this mission led them to abandoned warehouses, shut down pubs and closed schools, as well as city centre streets, suburban car parks and rural river banks.

They travelled from Burngreave to Bradfield, from Abbeydale to Ecclesall, all the while discovering new works.

Oh, and they’ve also found themselves in the odd unusual situation...

“One time I stumbled on some people shooting up while taking pictures down an alley,” says Hedley, a 42-year-old mental health nurse of Woodseats. “It was like, ‘don’t mind me, I’m just here for the art’.”

Another time Hedley’s parents - both in their 60s - were so impressed by one of his photos, they asked to see it personally.

“I ended up taking them out to this old abandoned building,” he says.

“That was a little surreal.”

But it showed, he says, this isn’t just an art form which appeals to younger generations.

“I think graffiti has a lot of negative connotations because it can be seen as part of a vandalism culture,” he says. “But that’s not true.

“A lot of these paintings have been done legally with the owner’s permission, and you can’t tell me they don’t bring life and colour to the city,” he said.

Indeed, the book aims to get that message across, while also introducing some of the work to city residents who might otherwise never see it.

“Like with my parents,” says Hedley.

“It’s something they wouldn’t have come across but they really saw it for what it was - talent.”

And now for the future? The pair have enough pictures for a second volume if this one - which has a print of 1,000 - sells well.

But they are also looking into the idea of making Pictures Of Sheffield Old and New into a book.

“We have this amazing collection of photos and that’s something we’d like to do,” says Hedley.

“In a way, I suppose this was a pilot for that - but it’s been a great pilot to do.”

Sheffield Street Art can be bought from Rare and Racy, in Devonshire Street, city centre.