Jun 27

Introducing the James Prigoff Archive

by: Steve Weinik

For five decades, James Prigoff has built a reputation as one of the world’s most respected photographers of public murals, graffiti, and spray can art. In an era when these types of artwork were largely dismissed and rarely documented, Prigoff was working worldwide to create an unparalleled record of the work.

In 2015, Prigoff loaned roughly 1500 slides to Mural Arts Philadelphia for digitization and identification. The slides represent images from his trips to Philadelphia between 1980 and 2006—that’s 26 years worth of images. As a photographer, I was thrilled to take on the project.

Over 4 years and somewhere close to 250 hours, I scanned, identified, and labeled slides. Out of four key pieces of information (artist, location, title, and date) I was able to partially or totally identify close to two thirds of the work. While that’s a great start, it still leaves hundreds of slides with no information, and many more with incomplete identification.

I’m working on a strategy/platform that will open up the collection to the public to crowdsource missing information. But in the meantime, here’s a small sample of images that I’d love to know more about.

 

James Prigoff Archive, 1980

The artist and title for this mural on the east side of Broad Street, just south of Lehigh Avenue, are unknown. This is pre-Mural Arts/pre-Anti Graffiti Network public art. What is it?


 

James Prigoff Archive, 1992

Typically when a mural has an artist, title, and a third piece of information like a business name, tracking down the location is easy. That wasn’t the case for A King’s Fate by artist Ed Mann. Where was it?


 

James Prigoff Archive, 1992

I kind of love this Southwest-themed mural, but can’t find any information on it aside from an Anti-Graffiti credit on the lower right.


 

James Prigoff Archive, 1992

In 1992, the warehouse adjacent to the regional rail lines at 22nd and Arch Streets was an abandoned, graffiti-filled shell. One old reference called it “The Factory,” but I’m not sure how widely that name was used. Either way, it was definitely a hang out for early 90s graffiti artists, and the James Prigoff Archive includes a small set from inside this building. I’d love to find out more about the space, and identify some of the artists featured in the photos.


 

James Prigoff Archive, 1980

The city has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, but the physical landscape hasn’t. Between the architecture and the terrain, the neighborhood pictured here is likely Roxborough, Manayunk, or Wissahickon. But where is it, and what is this mural? I have some vague memory of seeing it in Roxborough (maybe near Fountain Street?) when I was younger, but that could be entirely wrong.


 

James Prigoff Archive, 1992

Artist, title, and location are unknown for this one, but this image couldn’t be anywhere but Philadelphia. I’d love to fill in the gaps.

Last updated: Jun 27, 2019

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David Huisken says

The Factory likely was the site of the original Electric Factory located at 22nd and Arch. I saw Eric Clapton at that site.