Coast graffiti the focus of new book

Gibsons Graff

Two local street-art enthusiasts are joining forces to publish a unique book about an obsession they share – Gibsons graffiti. 

Gerald Shaffer and Beau Smith plan at least two versions of the book, Gibsons Graff, to be published later this year. The first edition will be more than a coffee-table picture book – it will be in the style of a vintage photo album, with each picture in a sleeve, Shaffer told Coast Reporter. 

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“You’ll be able to pull each photo out of the book and look at the back where there will be some history of the tag, the location, basically everything we can dig up about it and can fit on the back of a four-by-six photograph,” said Shaffer, a resident of Roberts Creek. 

A planned second edition of the collection will be in a traditional picture-book format. And both versions will include GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates of each piece of graffiti. “You’ll be able to geocache with it, you’ll be able to find them – a lot of them are hidden,” Shaffer said. 

Shaffer and Smith, a Gibsons native, first met last summer in Molly’s Lane while each of them was hunting for new wall art to photograph. 

“You often find new graffiti pieces there,” Smith said in an interview. “And there was a guy there [Shaffer], doing exactly the same thing I was doing. We started showing each other photos and talking about the history of graffiti around there.” 

Shaffer said the pair then soon hatched their publishing partnership. 

“Beau is really a historian on it. He has a deep interest and also a talent for it. He likes to know who did it and the stories behind the art. He’s so passionate about it, it was easy to get the project going,” Shaffer said. “He comes at it as an artist, and I come at it as a photographer.” 

Many people might regard graffiti as an eyesore and vandalism, and Shaffer agrees that some “tagging” is a pointless nuisance. But he added that if graffiti wasn’t accepted, and even enjoyed, it would not have been left in place for so long. 

“There’s an understanding with some landowners who think it’s okay,” Shaffer said. “In Lower Gibsons, it’s a unique situation where some of these tags have been around for 20 years and where they are quite comfortable letting graffiti artists ply their trade.” 

Town officials agree that the activity has been allowed, but not everywhere. 

“Years ago, the back of the curling rink was designated as a graffiti wall to protect the businesses in Upper Gibsons,” said Wendy Gilbertson, Gibsons Director of Parks and Cultural Services. “I planted the hedge out behind the swimming pool because the neighbours on Davis Road were not happy about looking out at the ‘Acid Art’ wall… A ‘designated tolerated activity’ is what I would call it.” 

Shaffer said the special photo-album first edition of Gibsons Graff can be pre-ordered by personal message to him through Facebook. He added that he plans to donate any profit from his share of sales to a wildlife protection charity.

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