The Writing on the Wall





SAT 1st AUG, 5:30pm FREE : George Stewart-Lockhart curator and publisher of the book and exhibition will give a guided tour of the show with an open Q&A.

Roger Perry's The Writing on the Wall was last seen in book shops nearly 40 years ago. It was arguably the first major survey of London's fledgling graffiti scene, and helped establish a trend which has ultimately led to the massive proliferation of such books, visible in nearly every book store and museum gift shop in the world.

The graffiti Perry photographs can be seen as the roots of what we're familiar with today. It's a far more visceral means of communication, that for the most part is less worried about the style of the writing, and more concerned with the content of the message. At a time when graffiti had more in common with Blake than Basquiat, it's self promotion, poetry and political discourse, all played out on the streets of 1970s London.

The photos give us a fascinating window into the countercultural scene at the time, with Perry giving an impartial platform to anyone and everyone that wanted to be heard over the backdrop of urban decay and regeneration. A number of fascinating figures from the time play a key role in this story of London graffiti, including members of situationist group King Mob, poet and playwright Heathcote Williams, journalist Neil Lyndon and members of the legendary ska band Madness.

The exhibition is being put on to mark both the 40th anniversary of the book's compilation, and the recent republication that was funded through Kickstarter, well exceeding its desired funding target. Put on thanks to kind support from Carhartt Work In Progress, the exhibition is a chance to have Perry's archive of photos re-evaluated, giving them their proper place in the canon of seminal graffiti photography, having been seemingly 'lost' for so long.

This is the first time these photos have been shown in nearly four decades, with the original framed prints having been bought out of storage for the occasion. Alongside a selection of photos from the book, the exhibition features a large array of ephemera, including letters, notes, press cuttings and cameras.

Roger Perry was a photo-journalist with a passion for documenting those on the edge of popular culture and art. Born in 1944, he grew up in Hendon, North London, and after studying engineering for a while he went on to Harrow Technical College and School of Art, to study photography. In 1968 he started to photograph fringe theatre and rock musicians for the newly-launched Time Out magazine. He was fascinated by London's burgeoning music scene and photographed in black and white the styles and personalities that evolved within it - during this period his daughter, Mary-Jane Robinson was born. He was a regular contributor to Time Out, The Sunday Times, Vogue, Nova and many other magazines, and travelled the world for them, from Ian Smith's Rhodesia to the tea plantations of Sri Lanka. In 1976 this book of London graffiti The Writing On The Wall was published and became hugely successful. Roger was also instrumental in forming Impact, the reportage and travel picture library. He developed arthritis in his early thirties, and by the mid 1980's found himself unable to work and use his camera as he wanted, so he turned to his other great passion in life - Lancia motor cars. Having lived in rural Suffolk since 1980, he set up Classico from his barn in the garden, restoring classic Lancias for people all over the world, until his untimely death in 1991.


'A unique distillation of a London that no-longer exists’ - King Adz (Street Knowledge, The Urban Cookbook)

'A rare and important document that deserves to be put back into the spotlight' - Tristan Manco (Stencil Graffiti, Street Sketchbook)

'The graffiti that Perry highlights are a generation away from the three-dimensional, self-referential designs that we have now become accustomed to: instead, they are urgent messages from another, hidden world, designed to be read and forcibly understood by a general public that would have preferred to walk on by.' - Jon Savage (England's Dreaming, Teenage)

'It’s like getting in a time machine and journeying back to the golden age of graffiti – by which I mean verbal graffiti that actually says something … Of course, verbal graffiti is a form of expression that has now more or less died out – replaced by internet sharing, tweeting and so on, but this reissue of Roger Perry’s great book is a wonderful reminder of what it once was in its heyday.' - Nigel Rees (Quote … Unquote, BBC Radio 4)

'Perry’s photos offer a vivid snapshot of British culture in the mid-70s, between the final curdling of the hippy counterculture and the arrival of punk' - Alexis Petridis, The Guardian

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