31/10/2019 07:58 GMT

Banksy Caught On Camera: New Photo Book Documents Street Artist’s Early Years

The elusive artist's rise to world acclaim is chronicled in an upcoming book by his former art dealer, Steve Lazarides.

Banksy’s former art dealer is publishing a new photo book that chronicles his time working with the elusive street artist.

Banksy Captured” contains hundreds of previously unseen images that Steve Lazarides snapped of Banksy and his art from 1997 to 2008. Some of the pictures — obtained exclusively ahead of publication by HuffPost ― feature Banksy himself, albeit partially obscured so as not to reveal his identity.

Steve Lazarides
“Banksy Captured” contains previously unseen images that Steve Lazarides snapped of Banksy during their 11 years working together, such as this one.

Lazarides and Banksy (who both hail from Bristol) first met in 1997, when Lazarides was picture editor and in-house photographer for the now-defunct Sleazenation magazine.

“We were doing an article, Banksy’s name came up. No one had fucking heard of him at that point, so I went through some of the contacts I knew [from growing up in Bristol] and I photographed him down on the dockside,” Lazarides told HuffPost. “I remember it to this day. I drove a shitty Ford Escort at the time. We went out and got shit-faced. I came back the next day” and someone “had nicked” the Ford.

“It spiraled from there really,” Lazarides continued. “I started out as his photographer, then began selling some of his works, ended up selling more than his agent at the time. I became his agent, dealer, driver. We then did the gallery. But it wasn’t your standard gallerist relationship. It was much deeper than that. It was much stronger. It was a fucking riot.”

Steve Lazarides
The true identity of Banksy, pictured here, has sparked plenty of speculation over the years -- but has never been officially confirmed.

Lazarides, who studied photography in college, documented Banksy’s numerous stunts, shows, studios and projects. He wanted his photos to have their own merit.

“I was shooting it like I was shooting a photograph, not like I was shooting a piece of Banksy’s artwork, if that makes sense,” he said.

More than 12,000 film negatives of his time with the artist “sat in files for years because I had no contact sheets,” Lazarides said. Then, he finally decided to start scanning them into a computer. The painstaking process took more than two years. 

“It was a very strange period of time,” said Lazarides. “Film cameras were on their way out. It was incredibly expensive. But digital cameras hadn’t really come in. The internet wasn’t really that up and running. There was no social media, so you’re in a period in time when I suddenly realised, ’Oh fuck, I’m the only person in the world with these pictures.’”

Steve Lazarides
Steve Lazarides and Banksy, pictured here, went their separate ways in 2008 after more than a decade working together.

Some photos, he couldn’t even remember taking. He lost “a tonne of work that just never turned up again that was digital.” The 252-page book will contain around 500 of these pictures, including a small number that appeared in Banksy’s seminal “Wall and Piece” book, first published in 2005.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” said Lazarides. “To me, at the time, they didn’t mean fuck all, when you’re stuck in the eye of the hurricane. I was unconfident as a photographer and it’s taken years to look back on some of them and think, ‘Oh, actually, I wasn’t that shit.’”

“It’s a bit like the way people view Banksy’s paintings,” he added. “Now they’re worth 9.8 million, people are looking at them in a different way. But I’m still looking at it thinking, ‘Fuck me, I had that in the boot of my car.’”

Steve Lazarides
Banksy, pictured by Lazarides, putting up his "Pissing Guard" piece.

Lazarides has a particular fondness for one sequence of images he took of Banksy in 2004, when the artist infiltrated London’s Natural History Museum to hang an installation of a dead rat holding a spray can. The slogan read “Our Time Will Come.”

“It’s one where he’s on his telephone while he’s doing the piece,” said Lazarides, who shared the pictures on Instagram earlier this year. “I’m like, ‘That’s a pretty ballsy move, you haven’t finished the piece yet, it’s full of people and yeah, I’ll take the phone call.’”

Lazarides and Banksy went their separate ways in 2008.

“There’s no great animosity there,” Lazarides said. “We both moved onto different things really. I had a point to prove in one place, he was proving a point somewhere else. Our paths diverged for a bit.”

Banksy, he said, knows of his plan to publish the book.

Banksy went on to host critically and publicly acclaimed shows, including 2009’s Banksy Vs. Bristol Museum, 2013’s New York citywide Better Out Than In residency, and 2015’s Dismaland bemusement park. He also garnered an Academy Award nomination for his 2010 film “Exit Through the Gift Shop” and opened The Walled Off Hotel overlooking the Israel-West Bank barrier.

Lars Fassinger
The first time that Steve Lazarides, pictured here, met Banksy ended with his car being stolen.

Lazarides, meanwhile, opened and ran galleries, and hosted shows for other prominent artists. Then, in September, he announced he was quitting the gallery world for good.

“I just can’t be bothered with it. It’s boring, uninspiring,” he said. “I’ve never been involved in anything so boring in my life. It’s not creative. It’s just about money, and it doesn’t engender creativity.”

“As far I’m concerned, it’s dead. I don’t see how it can sustain itself apart from the big galleries,” he added. “I think they’re losing their clientele. A lot of their big billionaire clients used to come to our events because they were interesting. If you’re trying to tempt them with a warm glass of Chardonnay and some fucking paintings on a wall, why are they going to come? They can go anywhere they want, they can buy whatever they want. They want an experience more than anything.”

Steve Lazarides

Lazarides said he was unsure about his future. He sees his self-published book (to cut out “the big players” like Amazon) and its companion website selling prints as a “side project” while he tries to figure out “what I’m doing.” His ideas include “big mega-shows combining music, art, food and performance all under one banner,” or possible further photo books of his times with other high-profile street artists, such as JR and Shepard Fairey (of “HOPE” Barack Obama poster fame).

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. To be honest, I haven’t really decided what I’m going to get up to yet, which is a dangerous place for me and an even worse for the rest of you lot,” he said. “To be honest, I’m scared.”

Steve Lazarides

One thing he insisted he definitely won’t be doing, however, is giving up Banksy — whose identity has been the source of constant speculation.

“I’ve kept the secret for 20-plus years,” Lazarides said. “Why on earth am I going to give that up now. I’m a stand-up man, everyone knows what that means. They’ll know that I’m never giving it up.”

“Banksy Captured” is slated for December publication. Check out the book’s website here and Steve Lazarides’ Instagram feed here.

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