ISSN : 2266-6060

Seen

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One day, as I went back home after grocery shopping, I walked by a store that was apparently being remodeled. What was being hidden by the semi-painted glass that obscured my view as much as it drew my attention and teased my curiosity ? As I got closer I could distinguish a man painting with a spray can on a canvas. It was not a regular shop like I thought but an artist studio. The man with grey hair was not facing me, his general aspect reminded me of someone but I was not sure. I went back home to drop the groceries.
Once settled at home my mind was still focused on the mysterious graffiti artist. I decided to go back in front of the store. I tried to watch him work without being noticed. I quickly recognized his style, his letters. I could not believe it, it was Seen, a New-Yorker from the Bronx, one of the pioneers of graffiti like Dondi or Jonone. Seen is a living legend for whoever is interested by the hip-hop subculture. I wondered what he was doing in my neighborhood.
When I went back home my memories started to add up. I remembered my first trip to NYC, in 1997, I had discovered the Bronx with a friend of mine from Toulouse, France. We had spent the afternoon walking from the Woodlawn subway terminal to Yankee Stadium following the 4 line, searching for all sorts of graffiti. For a few hours we had wandered through the streets among the names of Cope2, T-Kid, Bio, BG183, Loomit, Daim, Yes2 and of course Seen. With my camera I had shot a few rolls of the walls covered by the names of these graffiti artists. Drowned into my memories I decided to search my archives. I found the negative image of one of my new neighbor tag, taken in 1997. I made him a print and I brought it to him the next week.
For more than 20 years the walls of my neighborhood have been covered with names. Signatures that one can read or not, whether she or he finds them ugly, pointless and insignificant or rather harmonious, coherent and meaningful.
Several months later, one morning, as I walked my daughter to kinder garden, I found myself in front of a tag that I would have recognized among thousands, a tag I had seen for the first time in the Bronx in 1997. At last it happened, my neighbor had gone out for a little night tour. Coincidently, the four letters of his name which were first introduced several thousands miles away from my home, were now decorating my environment. Four letters which define as much the man who has been writing them on walls for more than 30 years, than the person who once has seen them.

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