Tattooed Walls: Photographs by Peter Rosenstein

Photographs of Graffiti Murals Document the Very Best of NYC Street Art

(University Press of Mississippi, hardback, $40.00)

Text by Isabel Bau Madden; Foreword by Stefan Eins

Fifteen years ago on New Year’s Day, a mural in the Lower East Side of Manhattan stopped photographer Peter Rosenstein in his tracks. It wasn’t just the colors or the message against injustice and violence that captivated him.

“As I stood back and admired the color and composition,” Rosenstein writes in the preface to his new book Tattooed Walls (University Press of Mississippi), “I could not help but lament the transient nature of the murals.”

Ever since, Peter Rosenstein has been scouting the boroughs of New York City to photograph the very best graffiti murals. His curiosity and energy, along with his extraordinary ability to capture the essence of the murals, has resulted in nearly two thousand color images and an unparalleled documentation of an art which very often is destroyed. Tattooed Walls features over one hundred photographs from Rosenstein’s expeditions to the Bronx, Harlem, Spanish Harlem, the Lower East Side, the East Village and Brooklyn.

Who got up? PART, REVOLT, SMITH, IZ THE WIZ, FUZZ ONE, JAMESTOP, T-KID 170, TRACY 168, EZO, PC KID, DAZE, COPE2, BIO, NICER, BG 183, NIC 1, SERVE, CRASH, PINK, PER, CHICO, NOMAD, Andre Charles, DE LA VEGA, SLOAN, Hulbert Waldroup, Wanda Ortiz, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, LEE, FREEDOM, SES, RAZ, KENN, SOZE, NOSM, MAZE, PEAK, CYCLE, MUSE, OH, SONIC, KOOL CAT, CAINE 1, Stefano, MARK BODE, PEYTON, WARM, FREE5, EWOK, RIOT, PFUNK, DEZ, BRING, Art Guerrero, Richard Haas, WEN, MUZE, JEW, PSYCHO, SANE, AD, TATS CRU, FX CRU, TDS and more! Tattoed Walls also memorializes pieces from The Graffiti Hall of Fame.

The contemporary urban murals in Tattooed Walls depict a wide range of the human condition. They celebrate life; they mourn death; they express religious devotion; they are a communication medium for gang rivalries; they assert political opinions; and some simply bring a splash of color to a drab neighborhood wall. Down the block from vibrant spray-can creations are trompe l’oeil murals, a centuries-old technique meant to deceive the eye.

Tattooed Walls includes a brief interview with artist and political activist De La Vega whose territory is Spanish Harlem, and a commentary from the artist Chico. It also features a foreword by artist and gallery owner Stefan Eins, who was one of the first in the broader art world to recognize and promote graffiti art.

In addition to searching out new murals around New York, Peter Rosenstein is a periodontist and an avid jazz trumpet player. Isabel Bau Madden is an Argentine-born journalist, actress, and art director for numerous films who has lived in New York City since 1963. Her work has been published in the New York Observer, France-Amerique, and the Buenos Aires Herald, among other periodicals.

*Cover art shown above by PC KID and NICER.

17 thoughts on “Tattooed Walls: Photographs by Peter Rosenstein

  1. Pingback: Dream1
  2. Peace all, I just did an e-blast for the company – University Press of Mississippi. You should write to them at and let them know that you are in the book and to ask if they can send you a copy or can forward your email to the photographer so that he can give you something out of his alottment. I don’t know the photographer but perhaps he & the others involved will be at the opening exhibit, private reception at Bill Adler’s EyeJammie Fine Arts Gallery here in NYC on Sept. 14th.
    I wrote to all the writers whos addresses I do have to let them know who to contact. Anyone can get at me at toolsofwar(at) and I will forward your letter along to the woman who told me about the exhibit.

  3. correction – anyone who’s in the book can get at me about the exhibit and the invites and I will forward them to the right person – there’s probably more artists in the book than I listed – I included everyone who I could read :0

  4. Dear all,

    I would be honored if you would accept my invitation to attend my photography exhibit of New York City street art – “Tattooed Walls” on Sept. 14th at Bill Adler’s Eye Jammie Gallery in Manhattan. There are several writers who I have yet to meet whose work I greatly admire and is featured in my book by the same title that was recently released by the University Press of Mississippi.

    I began taking photographs of NYC street art 15 years ago as a hobby. I am simply a big fan of the murals. Recording New York City’s street art has also been my way of giving back to a city I love-and your work is an integral part of its urban landscape. It has been an experience of a lifetime for which I am grateful to both, you and my city. Documenting New York City street art became a mission for me. I decided to publish the photos in a book as the pieces come and go so quickly. I may have pictures of murals that you have painted that I can share with you, especially if you are putting together your own book, archives, etc.

    I honor your work and I am proud of my work and I would like to invite all of you, including those of you who are only hearing from me now for the first time, to the show next Thursday night. It is going to be a lot of fun and a credit to all of the artists whose
    work is represented.

    I look forward to meeting you at the reception,


    Peter Rosenstein

  5. I read the Daily news article… A little surprised that a photo show caused so much heat… I thought that people would be proud to be made into history. The whole argument seemed crazy to me. Artists try to get up, to get over.. to leave a mark, to be seen… to become the King… then some guy comes by takes some photos… of “street” culture, and now everyone wants to kill the guy. This is like the cops saying you cannot photograph on the street… Yo- the streets belong to the people…
    First off if the book makes money I would be surprised. Secondly these photographs are marking a history, giving props, spreading the word, and making legends. Most of the history of graffiti is photographs and a few good books. Thirdly these art works belong to the street. If they are so precious then get them off the street… Jackson Pollack is not in the street… he never tried to be a street artist. Pollack was always an art gallery guy. Gallery’s can restrict taking pictures– it is their space… but the street? give me a break… we have enough laws and cops, now we need street art cops? Now the artists are trying to catch and beat up some guy for giving these street marks a history…
    Was funny for me to see Tat’s Cru complaining… they have taken over many of the LES Walls that used to be Chico’s Memorial Walls. Tat’s Cru paints commercials… Now these commercial artists want to control what people can do on the LES streets? You cannot take pictures of the LES street walls? You have got to be kidding? Like we need people selling what we can do on the streets. Funny in the old days on the LES all you had was Chico… now you have all this money.. these guys are all getting paid… and they want to get paid again… right.. lets sell the whole block… lets make all of the LES Disneyland… you want to walk… this much… you want to take a picture.. costs this much…
    And for the outlaw work… you took your space and made it yours for a period of time, then the photographer came along and hopefully made you mark permanent…. forever.. if you are not into it… then get out of the public eye… the streets belong to the people.
    In this day and age of felony arrests for graffiti, people getting real time for graf, it is much harder to become a legend. Most of what this guy photographed was legal work. Work that is like sign paintings.. commercials on walls… there is the argument by community people who find the commercials offensive– do we need more corporations sticking more spend, spend, spend, down our throats? These commercial artists get a photo of their “street” work into a book.. and now they own the whole street and everything that takes places on it… maybe we should just hang those ugly billboards…
    As a side note.. which I hope does not make the outlaw artists happy.. but many people now are being stopped by the police for taking photos in the city.. lets make everything a crime… good idea…

  6. I spent $40 to buy the book at Barnes & Noble. Congratulations! It’s finally in print after so many years of work! But it is a disappointment that there are no photographs of the writer and photographer included in the text. Can you post these in some prominent place, so the authorship does not remain a mystery?

    Thanks. Anonymous.

  7. It’s great that your book has been published!

    Now that you can point with pride at the paintings in the book, hopefully you will take a consistently noble attitude towards both the humble and great artists and writers who pursue their work at great personal cost.

    Tony Stuart

  8. Notice that all of the art enthusiasts writing on this website have taken time out of their busy day to let you know they noticed your book! Does not that make you appreciate their thoughtfulness and their talent? Isn’t it nice to know that there is more to life than a dentist’s office?

    Jennifer DeMarto

  9. I bought a copy at the Barnes & Noble on Broadway and 66th Street. It is a First Edition, although I suspect there will not be an overwhelming demand for numerous reprints. Mine was the only copy left on the shelf, so you might want to contact them about restocking the book. (Do you get royalties, or is this a Vanity Press, author-published endeavor?)
    Even so, are you signing any copies?

    Carrie Jean


    tat cru read twat cru, its in the public domain, get real, its not advertising, like coke or something like that its a someone who digs the work and has it reaching to a whole new audience, I wonder what henry chalfont has to say about this. I hope the photographer does not cave in, so what he didn’t speak to 10 people from thousands, get real, it takes ages to do this stuff like 10 years, if you dont want people to see or photograph the work then don’t do it in pubic put in a gallery. “law and order” have created a reality which I feel does not exist in law, just because someone gets a release does not mean in law there is any need to. In this case there is no need to imho. bansky has tried to do the same in the uk, and has failed, ok so most of his stuff is illegal but still, if its in public and reinterpreted by photographing it then there is no infringement in my view, for editorial, exhibition, book and fine art print use, there is however if you then sell it for use my mars for their new chocolate bar, but in a book and art exhibition no, who do these guys think they are 50 cent, he is so legally controlling he is now well boring.

    peace anonymous

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