Since most of my explorations in the Philadelphia street art scene have been concentrated near and around Center City, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone this past Sunday. This time out I was in search of some real raw and authentic graffiti pieces.
I found just what I was looking for.
The walls at Fifth and Cecil B. Moore and the pier near Richmond Street – two incredibly marked up spots full of intricate pieces, including wildstyles and burners – are virtually less than a couple miles apart from each other.
These sites are home to some of the hidden gems of Philly graffiti.
Fifth & Cecil B. Moore
The Olde Kinsington neighborhood is a special location in North Philadelphia being that it has permission walls that run along the sides of its roads. This area has an interesting history of property owners allowing graffiti writers to display work on their property, which dates back to the 80’s.
Immediately after I got out of my car to take a few snapshots of the graffiti, a pickup truck pulled up behind my car. A man hoped out of the truck with a camera and started taking pictures beside me.
Mike Good, 43, drives around the neighborhood every Sunday taking photos of the newest graffiti additions as a hobby.
Good has lived in North Philadelphia his entire life. So I asked him how long the art has been on the walls.
“Ever since I grew up it’s been like this,” Good said. “They’re allowed to do graffiti on certain surfaces like these walls at Fifth and Cecil B. Moore.”
He mentioned that the pieces on these walls are unique to North Philly and aren’t necessarily the styles of graffiti you would be able to find in Center City.
The graffiti here includes a dedication piece to the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School, some pieces alongside a mural of the late rapper Big Pun, as well as plenty of sick wildstyles – all of which can be viewed in the slideshow below.
My next destination landed me in a parking lot behind what appeared to be a vacant industrial complex off Richmond Street. I had to park there in order to walk over to an abandoned loading pier people call “Graffiti Underground.”
Ironically, these abandoned areas were full of life.
The parking lot was inhabited by groups of people standing by their cars and watching bikers ride up and down the parking strip doing wheelies. At the far left corner of the parking lot there was an entrance to a dirt trail leading towards the pier.
No longer than a couple minutes of walking down the path and I found myself in graffiti paradise.
The pier extends out into the Delaware River and consists of two concrete structures with rows of support beams, and almost all of the spaces on these structures have been occupied by aerosol paint.
Some repeating patterns could be found on the support beams, giving the impression that the structures had been used for practicing. I came across thousands of various styles of graffiti and quite a few people too.
Some young teens some how managed to find a way to the roof of the first structure could be heard running along the top of it. At the very end of the pier, past the second structure, I found about eight men fishing and a woman reading.
On my way out, I met three teenagers writing graffiti within a few feet of the entrance of the second structure. Nineteen-year-old W.P., who refused to give me his real name, told me they came there to work on their technique.
“We come out and bomb this place every now and then,” W.P. said. “We really just came here to experiment with some new ideas and chill.”
I was able to take a few snapshots of W.P. in the act of bombing. He had no choice but to go over other artists’ previous work due to the limited space.
Photos from “Graffiti Underground” can be viewed below.