Designer-turned-photographer Steve Snider explores the urban media of layered and distressed walls
As a designer I have always viewed the world in terms of graphic compositions. I can’t prevent my mind from framing whatever I see: shapes, colors, patterns, textures, content, and how they juxtapose. My eye seeks out the beauty hidden in the ordinary things that surround us every day. Wabi-sabi, the quintessential Japanese aesthetic, is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, things modest and humble, things unconventional. This is most true for me in the torn and tattered billboards, which seem indigenous to cities around the world. I have always been drawn to their aged and weathered surfaces.
I began photographing walls many years ago, mostly on trips when I would have a camera with me. But at home I never liked lugging the camera around, so even though I would see many walls I loved, I never went back to shoot them. And then a couple of years ago something miraculous happened: the iPhone. Suddenly this little device I could carry in my pocket allowed me the freedom to be spontaneous; I could stop anywhere, get as many shots as I wanted and see them instantly! And then a second thing happened: Instagram, an app that is a platform for sharing photographs. I began posting images at [my handle] “stevesnidernyc” and calling them #todayswall. I found myself anxious to leave my desk at lunchtime and anticipating time out of the office to wander around looking for subject matter. This became my new passion, something that had always been within me, and as the response on Instagram began to grow, I realized I wanted to devote myself to it full time. So I retired from the world of publishing to pursue a dream I never even realized I had.
Hunting and discovering great walls is my new job. When I’m taking photographs, I find myself lost in the moment – and when I look through them, I enter a place I can only describe as “the zone.” I love discovering the pleasing composition in the chaos and I like to think that the way I crop my images is what sets my work apart from that of similar photographers. I’ve been lucky in my career of designing book jackets to have done my share of bestsellers and iconic covers. I’m proud of my accomplishments. And I’m grateful to have worked with many famous and brilliant writers, photographers, and illustrators, but I always wondered in the back of my mind if I was doing important work. With my wall art, I somehow feel I am. I’m making a record of our times. Though many people who see it don’t “get it,” or don’t like it, that’s OK with me, because I feel art should be controversial. And ultimately I’m creating it for myself. It fulfills me, and at 71 that’s a good thing to feel.
>Follow Steve’s work on Instagram http://instagram.com/stevesnidernyc