Top Ten Shots From the City of Gold

Last week I spent lots of time watching graffiti artists paint during the City of Gold Urban Art Festival. I took tons of pictures and I’ve been struggling to figure out how to organize them, and also how to write about the festival more broadly. In the end, I just decided to pick my ten favorite shots from the week and explain each picture.

Most of these pictures depict graffiti pieces in progress rather than finished works, and some of the pictures aren’t really of graffiti pieces at all. I actually find graffiti quite challenging to photograph and the finished pieces — while beautiful — don’t always make the most interesting photos. I’m more interested in the stories around the graffiti’s creation and the environment in which it’s created.

With that said, here we go. (Note: I didn’t include any shots from the festival kickoff at the Absa building since I covered that in my previous post.)

1) Braamfontein graffiti tour

Braamfontein stride-by

I shot this on a Past Experience graffiti walking tour the day before the City of Gold festival started, at a wall on Smit Street that was actually repainted later in the week. Jozi tourists are falling in love with graffiti, as you can see from the expressions on these two women’s faces. If you’re interested in taking a graffiti walking tour, visit

2. Solo One sticker

Solo tag

Solo One, a graffiti artist from London, is the most interesting person I met during this festival. Here he is getting started on his piece on Fawcus Street in Jeppestown, with his graffiti sticker in the foreground. Graffiti artists often use personalized stickers to quickly “tag” the areas where they visit and paint.

3. Solo One’s tire-jumping course.

Solo kids playing

Solo One is passionate about graffiti, but he seems even more passionate about making a positive impact in the communities where he paints. During the days I watched him, he spent more time doing art projects with the local kids than he did painting his wall. As you can see, the kids appreciated it. (I smudged out Solo’s face because I’m not sure he wants to appear online.)

4. Beautiful lady at Grayscale Gallery

Veronika lady

An amazing work in progress, by an artist called Veronika (in case you’re wondering, Veronika is a guy), outside the Grayscale Gallery in Braamfontein.

5. Alien girl.


Another Veronika work in progress, at the corner of Fawcus and Janie in Jeppestown. This one reminds me of a character from Avatar. I really dig Veronika’s stuff — my camera is drawn to it like a magnet. Although I must say that his bad-ass, Barbie-shaped ladies don’t do much for my own body image.

6. Blue elephants sniffing out a snack.

Blue elephants

Falko One painted graffiti elephants all over town during the festival. I love these elephants the most because they look like they’re about to steal some of the grilled fish off that table. I don’t blame them because it smelled delicious.

7. Graffiti stride-by.

Mars-Tyke stride-by

Graffiti is enhanced by the people who walk past it. This lady is walking past a mural in progress by Mars and Tyke on Janie Street in Jeppestown.

8. Zebra from the air

Mr Dheo zebra

Mr. Dheo, a graffiti artist from Portugal, shoots a photo of his just-completed piece on Gus Street in Jeppestown. The caption next to the zebra reads “Your soul is not for sale.” I love thinking about how many people over the years will turn the corner onto this street and look up at the screaming zebra in surprise. 

9. The Midas Touch

Midas Touch

“The Midas Touch,” by Bias, on Janie Street in Jeppestown. I am biased (pardon the pun), as Bias is my boyfriend, but this is my favorite piece in the festival. Not only because it’s spectacular and because it relates specifically to the City of Gold (read about the myth of King Midas), but also because I know exactly how much time and effort went into creating it. By the way, I highly recommend watching the YouTube video in the link at the top of the piece, as it will provide more context. I can’t say more or I’ll ruin the surprise. Here it is:

10. The artist

Ray with piece

An exhausted but happy graffiti writer. Graffiti is no joke, I tell you. It’s freaking hard. (Graffiti artists don’t normally like to be photographed but this one gives me special dispensation.)

Bonus shot: Gideon the Barber

Gideon small

As usual, I’m throwing one extra into my top-ten. All week, as I watched the guys paint, I also watched Gideon sitting in the shade on the corner of Fawcus and Janie Streets. Gideon runs a mobile barbershop (consisting of a bicycle, a stool, and some clippers), but I only saw him give one haircut the whole week — he says business is slow. On Friday I finally mustered the courage to ask Gideon for a photo. I took several portraits but this one, with Gideon holding the Polaroid that I shot and gave him on the spot, is my favorite.

Here’s to a great festival.  Keep an eye out for my upcoming feature about the City of Gold on

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  • Reply Timmee October 13, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks. It’s awesome.

  • Reply Derek Smith October 13, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Solo One –

    Still in the city busy building a library at Bijala in Jeppestown amongst other things – An all round great human being

    • Reply 2summers October 13, 2014 at 5:36 pm

      Thanks Derek. Great to hear that Solo is still going.

  • Reply Katherine Gordy Levine October 13, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Thank you for this. Pinned four at Hope it spreads yours and the artists fame.

  • Reply Firefly - Jonker October 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Wish I had time to explore these areas a bit more when I was up last week.

    • Reply 2summers October 16, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      Me too. Next time. And I hope you’ve recovered from your phone theft 🙁

  • Reply K for Kate (@Kate_Els) October 16, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Awesome pics as always Heather. Love that you showed all the people and life going on around these pieces!

    • Reply 2summers October 16, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks Kate! See you soon. xx

  • Reply amelie88 October 17, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    What does your boyfriend’s piece say? I often find it hard to read “graffiti font.” It’s all cool and squiggly though and I really like the urban landscape in the background.

    • Reply 2summers October 19, 2014 at 7:47 am

      Hi Amelie, it says ‘Bias’, but don’t feel bad because it is indeed very hard to read. Graffiti writers almost always write their own names in their pieces. I’m starting to get better at reading the script but it takes a lot of staring.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish October 29, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    I love the fact that you highlight the artist as much as the picture. To me, this is what photography is all about — people, not just what they do, but who they are. That said, my favorite is the Lady in Sox. Brilliant perspective. [Sorry, Bias!]

    • Reply 2summers October 29, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      Haha, I’m sure he won’t be offended 🙂

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