Vintage Shots of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s SAMO© Graffiti

At the end of the ’70s, as New York City’s Soho transformed from an ethnic factory district to the art hub of the elite, the graffiti collective SAMO© — made up of an anonymous teenage Jean-Michel Basquiat, his high school friend/graff veteran Al Diaz, and artist Shannon Dawson — began its contrarian poeticisms. Basquiat was the driving force. SAMO© was “the drug,” the abstract, sarcastic, witty, site-specific prose poetry exhibit via vandalism, a “spiritual salvation” from the “so-called avant-garde had become a formidable, lucrative, orthodox institution,” as photographer Henry Flynt explains in his thorough essay. Documenting the tags in 1979, Flynt could not predict Basquiat’s eventual fame, yet, he understood the right way to photograph “the experience” of reading SAMO© — not just capturing the truncated text element, but its urban placement in full color. Spotted by The World’s Best Ever, check out these authenticated vintage shots in our gallery.


Photo credit: Henry Flynt, 1979