The Nuart festivals are known for the high quality of their art and their curation. Now based in both Stavanger and Aberdeen, they have become the benchmark by which most other street art festivals follow.
Photographer Brian Tallman has been documenting Nuart for years. Based in Norway, his work shows the work at its very best. His images are works of art in their own right. He has a unique eye and it’s that eye which has resulted in this list of some of the most remarkable street art images you’ll ever see. The rest of this article and of course the photography is from Brian.
Brian Tallman – Through the Lens
It was an honour to be asked by Inspiring City for an interview and a possibility to show off some of my favorite images from the NuArt festivals I have been involved with. I really enjoy working the festivals and seeing all of the amazing artworks as they are being produced. But the most fun with NuArt is the people. There are truly some incredible people that come from all corners of the globe to work. What they end up producing in such a short amount of time is never anything less than awe inspiring.
A little bit about me and my background. I was born and raised in a very small town in Iowa called Olin (population 689, 688 when I’m not there) in the United States. I got my first camera at about the age of 7. I think it came in a box of stuff my dad bought at a flea market for $1. It was a kodak Instamatic 100. I didn’t have any film, but I ran around taking ‘pictures’ of everything. I eventually got some film for it and loved the anticipation of getting the developed pictures back.
I loved that thing. I didn’t really shoot much more until high school when I saved up my money and got my first SLR, a Canon AE-1 Program and a 50mm lens. I shot a lot of rolls and eventually wore out the shutter. I went to college for Graphic Design with a minor in photography. After college I worked as a Graphic Designer for a number of years but I have always had a passion for taking pictures. I have shot all different kinds of pictures but never really had a specialty until my son was born 12 years ago. Aside from taking thousands of pictures of him (poor kid), I had to switch gears to make room for my photography with the new baby in the house. Which meant taking pics when he was sleeping. Which led me to night photography. Which I now absolutely love. Which led me, by way of happy accident, to taking pictures for NuArt.
It was indeed a happy accident that helped me to become a photographer for NuArt. It was literally a dark and stormy night that led me to the beach to take some photographs. It was a solar storm that was lighting up the night sky with aurora borealis that night. I was, and still am, a Northern Lights chaser and was out to capture some images that I could post on the internet. I decided that evening to have a large WWII bunker in the foreground to give an added element to the image. I lit the interior and exterior of the bunker by using a flashlight to get more detail in the image. So the process involved me tripping the shutter of my camera; running over to the bunker and light paint the interior and exterior with the flashlight… in pitch darkness. I took about 30 images that night and almost broke my neck at least twice while running in the darkness. This is one of the images I ended up with and one of them I posted to Facebook.
When Nuart Calls
Little did I know that on the front of the bunker was a paste-up from the amazing French artist team Ella & Pitr. I was called up the next day by James Finucane of NuArt saying a colleague of his (Thank you Marisa) had seen my image on Facebook and how much he liked the image of the artwork. I think my response was literally “What artwork?”, having not paid much attention to the paste-up the previous night. He asked me if NuArt could use my image and if I wanted any money for it. I told them of course they could use my image, and, instead of payment for the image, I would appreciate it if they would call me again if they ever needed anything else shot. First one’s free as it were. We agreed and they called me a couple of months later. Fast forward to 3 years later and now I shoot most of their stuff and have been published in magazines and books all over the world. I also seek out street art wherever I am to the point of when I now travel on family vacations I seek out back alleys and bridge underpasses instead of beaches and gift shops. Something my wife has grown to accept. Love you honey! <3.
When Stuart from Inspiring City asked me for an interview, I was bowled over. Why would anyone want to talk to me? But here we are. He asked me for my favorite 10 images over the years. It’s like asking to pick your favorite child. So here is 10 plus a couple extra with a brief background on each one.
1. NuArt Stavanger 2016 Artist SpY (ESP)
This shot took several nights to get. I was hoping for a completely calm night so I could get a good reflection of the artwork in the water. But I never got it and had to make do. Although I am very happy with the way it turned out, I know it could have been better with completely calm water. This was one of the first images that I got published and am happy to say it even ended up in the Street art guide book from Lonely Planet.
2. Bordallo II (POR) NuArt Festival Stavanger. Taken March 2016
This is a shot I took of an existing piece before I started working with NuArt. Although they have used the photo since I started working with them. I always liked this piece and have always been interested in urban decay. This was at Tou Scene in Stavanger before they started renovating the area. I really like this image because of the colors and the motion I picked up in the clouds. Plus the artwork was just amazing. Unfortunately the artwork has been taken down as the building is in the process of being renovated.
3. Fintan Magee (AU) NuArt Festival Stavanger 2016
This shot was a beast to create, but it is still one of my favorite images I’ve ever taken. Loved this work by Fintan Magee, unfortunately it no longer exists. Fintan is an amazingly talented muralist from Australia. He is also a genuinely really, really nice guy. I wanted to shoot this amazing work at night and found something interesting after taking my first long exposure image of it. That was the stars circled around a point situated above the grain silos. Not being able to accomplish what I wanted with several attempts with a single long exposure shot, I had to do a composite image with several shots. I took around 140 shots one evening and combined everything digitally into one image. Total shot time and process time was 10+ hours, but I am really happy how it turned out. This image got a lot of attention both locally and internationally and I am really quite proud of it.
4. Axel Void (ESP / USA) NuArt Festival 2016
A little different shot of artwork. I was shooting stills for NuArt while Axel Void was working on a video production piece. I really enjoy this shot. Kinda has a creepy Lord of the Flies feel to it. One of the few shots I actually have hanging up at home.
5. The Crew. NuArt Aberdeen 2017
My all time favorite crew shot from all of the festivals that I have worked so far. An assemblance of some of the biggest names in Street art in one place, Martyn Reed – NuArt, Hera (Jasmin) of Herakut, Jon Reid from Dancing in the dark / NuArt Aberdeen. Evan Pricco from Juxtapoz magazine, Ian Cox world renowned street art photographer and James Finucane – NuArt / Subvertising Norway. Also notice the reflection of the Herakut wall in the window of the Coffee shop. I consider all of these people now personal friends and am amazed by all they accomplish. I adore them all.
6. Add Fuel, Aberdeen 2017
I was amazed by the amount of detail in Add Fuels work. I am also equally impressed by the research he puts in his pieces. Not to mention, he is a fantastically nice person. I wanted to do this wall justice and get a nice shot of it at sundown and believe this image captures it quite well. As with many of my images I don’t just capture the artwork, but the artwork in its surroundings. I feel it helps the viewer see what I see. It also helps with scale and realizing how big some of these images actually are.
7. NuArt Stavanger / Kannik School / Attende colab. 2017
There are talented artists, and then there is SMUG. This guy is in his own class. Where a lot of muralists will use a grid system or a projector to map out the image before they start painting, SMUG just makes a few reference marks on the wall and then just gets on with it. Painting almost entirely freehand. He is amazing to watch and one of the most talented artists I have ever seen. Plus he is truly an amazing human being. I wanted to do this wall justice, so I shot it over several nights. The lighting was difficult so I had to hit it with strobes and do some light painting to even things out. I’m really happy with the end result.
8. John Fekner (USA) NuArt Festival Stavanger 2017
This shot is an example of how you sometimes have to look for the artwork in my images. The artist tagged these large spools with “growth” and “decay”. I used wireless strobes to light up the spools and even out the lighting with the background. I really like Johns work. He is an icon in the street art world and was thrilled when he asked me for a couple of prints. I received one of the best compliments from him that I have ever gotten from anyone. He said my photographs of his work accurately portrayed how he, himself saw his artwork. I was truly humbled by that.
9. VERMIBUS (ES) NuArt Festival Stavanger 2017
I really enjoy Ad-Takeover artists and Spanish Artist Vermibus is one of the best in the game. I like his work and how he makes existing ads take on another form. Ad takeovers are always hard to shoot in that they never last very long. Especially here in Stavanger. They can be taken down within hours. So I felt fortunate to get a shot of this work. It took some time to get this shot. I probably spent a couple of hours on the location and took many shots to get the one I wanted. This image is actually a composite of two shots. One to get the art correctly exposed and one for the rest of the shot. Sometimes that is necessary to get proper exposure in a long exposure image.
10. Rooftops of Aberdeen with good friends. NuArt Aberdeen 2018
One of the things I like most about street art is you never know where you are going to end up. This is the case with this shot. This shot was taken on a rooftop in downtown Aberdeen about 1am. It was dark, kind of rainy and I think we woke up about a million seagulls that were roosting on this rooftop that night. This shot always makes me smile as I think of the struggle it was to get up on that roof with all of our gear, but also how much fun we had. I was with my partners in crime, fellow photographer Ian Cox (@wallkandy) and Videographer Doug Gillan (@fifthwalltv). It’s these guys I can thank the most for me being a better photographer. They are both just amazing people and I will never be able to thank them enough for helping me out. Which reminds me, I think I still owe these guys several pints for all of the help along the way. The wall was painted by the incredibly talented Ernest Zacharevic and is a must see if you in Aberdeen.
11. SNIK (UK) NuArt Stavanger 2018
SNIK are amazing artists and probably my favorite team out there. They are just incredibly fun people. They are traditional stencilists and all of the stencils they produce are hand cut. Let that just sink in, they hand cut everything they do, and they do some huge works. I chose this image because I really like the wall. I also chose it because it was difficult to get the shot and I am really happy with the result. This piece is in the arrival lounge at the Stavanger airport and I wanted a shot with a lot of people. Easy enough, right? Not so much. Every time I was there to shoot it there was hardly anyone. So I compositied about 20 shots with random people to get the final shot I wanted. I colored the artwork and left everything else b&w to emphasise the piece. I’m very happy with the final image.
12. SMUG NuArt Aberdeen 2019
SMUG is the only artist to make my list twice. Both because I really enjoy his work and I’m happy with the photo. One thing you should know about SMUG is he loves dogs. When I met him for the first time in Stavanger I had my dog with me whom he quickly petted and gave massive attention to. When I met him again in Aberdeen the following year the first thing he said to me was – “Hey mate! Good to see ya. How’s your dog? The man never forgets a dog. Wanted to show this image, which was my favorite from the festival last year. Another reason I like this image is when I shot it, I didn’t see there was a man having a pee behind a dumpster. When I lit up the area with my strobes I think I gave him a pretty good scare as he took off running. Not sure if he had time to zip up. 🙂
13. Phlegm (UK) NuArt Aberdeen 2018
This is probably one of my favorite shots I’ve ever taken, street art or other. Really like this artwork from UK based Phlegm, a hugely talented artist. The work really fit well with my photography style. The artwork was in a dark corner of the street, so I was able to light it how I wanted while getting a good long exposure of the car traffic and street scene. Really love this shot.
Shooting for NuArt is a wonderful experience and I look forward to each festival that comes. It has also opened my eyes to the street art society and culture. I find it amazing to work with incredibly talented artists from all over their world and document their work. Not to mention all of the fantastic people that are associated with the festivals who give a lot of their time and loads of effort to pull off these amazing festivals every year. It is truly an act of love.
The street art culture is interesting and I feel it is coming to a crossroads. For years it has been driven by underground and outsider art, often times looked down upon, outlawed and illegal. Now it has reached the high street and used in advertising, in high street shops and sold in galleries where the uber rich try to outbid each other for the latest Banksy. I feel that the soul of street art is still there, be it in the inner cities to the small towns. Where someone wants to send a message or protest against what they feel is wrong. But, at the same time, street art is bursting into the mainstream, where artists are being paid large sums to fill advertising space. There are also companies created just for this purpose. Some using large scale inkjet printers that scale multi-story buildings and printing “street art” on the facade. It is an interesting time in street art, indeed. Street art has become mainstream, edgy and popular. The question is, will this newfound popularity be its downfall when society moves on to the inevitable newest, next shiny thing that grabs its imagination. We will see.
Well, there it is. My top 10 (13) images from my time with NuArt and street art in general – so far. It was not easy picking favorite images as every final shot I have has a special meaning to me. Hope you enjoy viewing my images as much as I enjoy taking them. I would like to thank Inspiring City for the opportunity to show off my images. I also want to thank NuArt for giving me the opportunity to work with them and give me free reign with my photography. But most of all for making me part of the NuArt family. This experience has been quite a ride and I can’t wait for the next festival!
This has been a guest post from Brian Tallman for Inspiring City. We’d like to thank Brian for taking the time to write such a captivating piece. Some of the images chosen are also mesmerising. The Nuart Stavanger festival runs from 5-8 September 2019.