AF: Congratulations on your show Rad Roubeni. Can you please tell Arte Fuse about your background in photography and how you ended up here?
RR: Thanks so much, Jamie, I’m really excited about it! I’ve been really into photography since I was a kid. My dad gave me his Hasselblad when I was 12 and I’ve been hooked ever since. After I earned my BFA at Pratt, I had a solo exhibition in Times Square that was an amazing experience for me. I ended up going into the commercial and fashion photography world after the show, and have been fortunate enough to travel around the world shooting for various companies and magazines for the last eleven years. It’s all been a really great ride, but I’m excited to focus on my own endeavors for a while and that’s what I’m hoping to showcase with this exhibition.
AF: What draws you to photographing street art?
RR: I’m really interested in the way that street art has become part of the city landscape. I love that the artists throw up their work in public spaces, but what really drew me to photographing the art is seeing the way that street artists use their work to create a visual dialogue–both between the several street artists often represented on the same wall, and with the viewers of the work. Their work is constantly changing with the addition of new pieces on the same walls and the work itself is subjected to the elements. I see my photographing of the works as the arresting of a particular moment in the art’s time in the city landscape.
Just today, I was shocked to see an old lady tearing a piece of a pasting off of a wall. At first, I thought she was taking it down because she was offended by it but when she began carefully rolling the piece up and put it in her bag I realized she was taking it because she liked it or even wanted to incorporate it into her own art work! So it’s great to see some of this street art moving into private residences and I’m excited to have my work be a part of this expansion from the streets.
AF: Who are some of your favorite street artists right now?
RR: I tend to focus more on the works themselves rather than the artist making them. Personally, it’s hard for me to name any favorite artists because I tend to admire different styles and aspects in each distinct work. Most of the photographs in this exhibition feature street art by several different artists, some of whom haven’t even signed their work. Because of that, I could be a huge fan of a particular street artist and I might not even know their name! I’m more excited about the way the works of different artists layer and work together than the piece of one particular artist on the wall.
I have to say though, I really appreciate the cultural impact of the works of artists like JR and Banksy who have really brought street art to a global scale. I also really like Revoke and Alec Monopoly’s style.
AF: What do you want the viewer to walk away with after seeing your new work in this show?
RR: One or more of the prints! Ha-ha, but in all seriousness, I’d really love the exhibition to raise awareness and appreciation of street art as a legitimate art form and not as vandalism. The fact that some of these artists are jailed for putting up some great work on otherwise empty walls is a disappointing state of affairs.
AF: What’s your dream project? If you had no constraints and could work on anything you wanted, what would you do?
RR: Ideally, I’d love to expand this project and photograph street art around the world–especially in third world countries and places in crisis because of the political and different cultural aspects of the art. I want to explore the way street art is used in countries that are more censored by the government, like my home country of Iran. My dream for this project is to one day travel to Tehran, the city that I was born in and haven’t been able to return to because of the political unrest stemming from the Iranian Revolution.
AF: What do you miss most about Iran? Is there street art there?
RR: Well, the last time I was in Iran I was two weeks old so I don’t remember much! My family left at the start of the Iranian Revolution, but I’ve always been really entrenched in Iranian culture and my father has been sure to show me his own photographs and film footage of the Iran he knew and loved. So although I haven’t be able to return to my home country, it still has a substantial impact on my life.
They do have great street art there and I hope to one day be able to photograph it and experience the country itself firsthand.
AF: What’s next for you? Where do you see your art in 5 years?
RR: I’m working on organizing some exhibitions internationally, quite possibly starting in Berlin. As far as where I see my work in five years? I try not to look that far ahead! I try to focus on my work in the moment!
PUBLIC DISPLAY BY RAD ROUBENI
December 21st – January 23rd
104 Delancey Street, New York, NY 10002
Direct: (917) 991-2499
@radroubeni / Facebook
@radartnyc / Instagram
Interview by Jamie Martinez
Photography provided by the artist