How taking pictures of Sheffield street art has turned into a global obsession for this keen photographer

What started out as a small project to photograph street art in Sheffield has grown into something of a global obsession for Gareth Morgan.

Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 2:26 pm

The former President of the Sheffield Photographic Society began photographing street art around the city following a presentation by a fellow member.

Gareth said: “I was quite surprised at the quality of the art and just how unobservant I had been.

"I had passed much of this art on a regular basis but just hadn’t noticed it. Sheffield has a strong tradition of street art and some fine examples – although by their very nature they don’t always stay around for very long.

"I then began to search out and photograph as much art as I could find – which lead to some interesting and unusual places”.

Having quickly amassed a collection of several hundred images just around Sheffield he began to look further afield – firstly taking in other Northern cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Hull then moving on to Bristol, London and a trip over to Belfast.

Gareth said: “I was well aware of the famous murals in Belfast and enjoyed recording many of those – but I was also pleased to discover loads of high quality street art with no political emphasis at all. This got me thinking about other places in the world and what sort of street art it might be possible to find.

“My international collection began on a holiday trip to Madeira where I took a day out visit the Rua Santa Maria in Funchal and “The Art of Open Doors” project. Encouraged by the local council many of the doors on this street had been decorated by well-known European artists. I think I photographed about 100 of these doors and some of the images were turned into posters which were exhibited at Sheffield Photographic Society’s Annual Exhibition. “

After that Gareth made a trip to St Louis, USA to catch up with friends but also to photograph the Mississippi Flood Wall - a 3-mile stretch of which had been covered in street art. The following year – on a holiday in Eastern Canada Gareth persuaded his wife to take a detour on the way from Montreal to Ottawa to visit the town of Sherbrooke.

The town is famous for its immense murals which cover much of the old downtown area and represent an idealised , almost Rockwellian, version of a classic North American town.

Gareth said: “whenever we go away on holiday now I always research what sort of art exists in a particular destination – and have had fun finding excellent examples in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Scandinavia to name but a few.

"Of course things don’t always go to plan – on a trip to Iceland just before the pandemic I set out to explore the old harbor area looking for the art of Guido Van Helten – who paints huge black and white photo realistic images on industrial buildings. I spent ages looking for the buildings in question – only to discover that they were in the process of being demolished!

"Luckily I did find one of his pieces a couple of days later in Akureyri.“

Gareth’s search for new street art has been somewhat curtailed by the pandemic over the past couple of years although he has still continued to record images locally – including a number of COVID related images. A planned trip to Miami to visit the Urban Art Graffitti Musuem in Wynford Walls also fell foul of the pandemic but he is looking forward to his next international discovery.

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