Film Photography: At Work Series, Jef Campion

At Work, Artist Jef Campion This is the first of a series of black and white film posts that I'm calling "At Work." I'm always fascinated by the details in our everyday lives, so I've decided to turn the lens of my old Nikon towards people's workspaces.

This one is appropriate to begin the series with, as Jef's work was some of the first pieces of street art that caught my eye shortly after moving to New York. He uses Diane Arbus' striking "Child with Hand Grenade" as one of the signature pieces for his street work. Arbus' photograph of a boy gripping a grenade in his hand has startled viewers for over 40 years. Jef, an admirer of the troubled artist, enlarges her image and accents it with blood red paint dripping from the boy's shorts.


War is a common theme in Jef's work. Like many people, he is troubled by the amount of time, money, and lives wasted on waging war. His Grenade Boy is usually tagged with a bright red "Army of One," "No More War," or "Give Peace a Chance." While we talked, I learned that Jef has been a New York firefighter, risking his own life for others for over 17 years. Besides his career as a firefighter, he works in his studio, where he has three or four fully mature pieces ready for gallery shows. His current body of work, both street and studio, has emerged from his experience of sifting through the wreckage from Ground Zero for survivors and fellow firefighters after September 11th. He spent weeks on site for the rescue and recovery mission and has used his art as a way to deal with the experience of being immersed in such destruction.

I spent some time in Jef's spacious Yonkers studio photographing his work and tools.


Jef at work on a new piece dedicated to Diane Arbus, which collects targeted words from headlines of the New York Times editorial page over the last few years.


Again the concept of war takes center stage


Jef put a call out for theses specific letters from children's building blocks for this unfinished piece. The blocks will be against a backdrop of baseball cards.


An art exchange from a fellow street artist. Exchanging work with other artists is a quick way to get your art up in another area. Jef has sent his Grenade Boy and Bride of War pieces to Cuba and Sao Paulo, Brazil for other artists to paste up.


Detail from current studio work


Jef and I are planning a night shoot as he pastes up his work locally. I'll post those images here as well. As much of a fan as I am of Jef's street art, I was really blown away by his studio work. It will be interesting to see what he does this year. You can see his street work on Flickr, as well as on the streets of NYC and LA.

All images shot with Nikon FM2n and Nikkor 50mm f1.4 Ai lens on Fuji Nopan 400 speed film pushed to 1600 ISO and developed in Kodak D-76.