Physical graffiti takes a leap

A photographer captures joyful moments of street life for an intriguing new take on the street art genre

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The Independent Culture

Josh Cole calls himself a physical graffitist. The photographer envisions a whole new movement in street art which will incorporate music, dance and physicality.

His joyful photographs - the start of this new movement? - capture people leaping carelessly into the air apparently regardless of the decay, despair and destruction around them.

Cole developed his style photographing hip-hop artists and street culture in some of the most dangerous and deprived areas in the world.

“The break-dance movement came out of gangland New York in the seventies as a way for young gang members to ‘battle’ in a non-violent way,” Cole said. “This scene has now become popular globally and is just emerging now in the poorest parts of the world.”

His work features break-dancers “from ghettos and slums” in Italy, Lithuania, Argentina, South Africa, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Malaysia, China, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

They are uplifting portraits of humanity which play upon themes of resurrection, resistance and unrestrained human exuberance in the face of hardship.

Cole became involved in the local hip-hop scene and began to collaborate with DJs, rappers, break-dancers and graffiti artists while he was studying at university.

Having shot advertising campaigns for big name brands such as Nokia, Levis and Nike, this exhibition marks a departure for him away from commerciality.

Cole's ‘Physical Graffiti’ exhibition opens at Hoxton Gallery, London on Wednesday.