Henry Chalfant (b. 1940 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, U.S.) is best known for his photography and film documentation of urban youth culture. His photographs of New York’s subway paintings record hundreds of ephemeral art works that have long since vanished. Exhibits of his photos begin with OK Harris Gallery, 1980; the Mudd Club, 1980; the landmark New York/New Wave show at MoMA PS1 in 1981; The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000 at the Whitney Museum, New York, 1999; Born in the Streets at the Fondation Cartier in Paris, 2010; Art in the Streets at MOCA in Los Angeles, 2011; Language of the Wall at the Pera Museum in Istanbul, 2014; The Bridges of Graffiti at the Biennale di Venezia, 2015; Henry Chalfant: 1980 at Eric Firestone Gallery, New York, 2017; Art is Not a Crime at the Centro de Arte Tomás y Valiente, Madrid, 2018; Henry Chalfant: Art vs. Transit at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, 2019. He co-authored the definitive account of New York graffiti art, Subway Art (Holt Rinehart Winston, N.Y. 1984), a sequel on the art form’s worldwide diffusion, Spraycan Art (Thames and Hudson, 2008), and Training Days with Sacha Jenkins (Thames and Hudson, 2015).
In 1983, Chalfant co-produced the highly-considered PBS documentary about graffiti and hip hop culture, Style Wars, with director Tony Silver. Since then, Chalfant has continued to make documentary films about street culture and community life in New York City.
Henry Chalfant outside a camera shop with a spray-painted sign, Bronx, New York, 1981. Photo © Martha Cooper. Courtesy of Martha Cooper.