Under The Bridge

Under the Bridge

Freshly cut metal links litter the muddy ground. The chain link fence is rolled back just far enough to slip through, and for whatever reason, the ten foot tall metal slats that protect the other two sides are absent. Someone went through a lot of trouble and there’s no telling how many times this has happened. Once through the fence, you’ve reached the underbelly of the Queen City Bridge as it stretches out across the river. It’s simple enough to scramble up onto the cement tower and from there it’s two steps up onto the catwalk that runs the entire length of the bridge. Graffiti covers every surface in vibrant colors and I can’t help but wonder the point of it all.

Not the point of existence or anything like that, but rather, the point of graffiti. Some people call it vandalism, while others claim it is art or something akin to self expression. Personally, I find it to be a little of both and I’m not entirely sure where to draw the line. Prior to living in Manchester, graffiti wasn’t something I had much contact with, but now I see it daily. If I walk to my car, head to the park, or go out for a run, it’s there on posts, signs, trash cans, buildings, and boxes. Some of it angers me and some of it injects color into my day.

In Bow, NH, the town constructed a new water tank adjacent to the 93 corridor and it seems like it was only a matter of days before it was tagged with graffiti so large that it can be read while driving past. The town is unable to repaint it due to the cold weather, but I read somewhere a proposal to allow the tank to be an ongoing piece of art because otherwise it will be continually tagged. A similar piece of vandalism sits below Amoskeag Falls on an old stone wall visible from 293. I call it vandalism because of its size and the amount of work that would be required to remove it without adding pollutants to the river. I understand the need for self expression and artwork is beneficial in the lives of many, but how is it that these graffiti artists can view destruction of property as acceptable?

Of course, whether or not graffiti is art or vandalism is a matter of ongoing debate with points on either side. As I stand beneath the bridge finding my own art through a lens I’m just amazed at the lengths that members of this underground culture will go to. Most people may never see their message or their simple tag but I would assume that the more difficult it was to create then the more street cred they earn. I try to understand my own internal logic for being here and documenting what I see but I can’t quite find the words for an explanation. Maybe I’m compelled in the same way they are to create something with a major difference being that my expression is legal, but then it occurs to me that I might be trespassing and I promptly flee the area.

Where do you stand when it comes to graffiti? Leave some thoughts below.

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