Henry Chalfant (born January 2, 1940 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, USA) is an American well known and highly regarded urban culture photographer and videographer most notable for his graffiti and breakdance photography and film. He is highly regarded for his wide knowledge in hip hop and the underground culture. His photos are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Education and career
A graduate of Stanford University who majored in classical Greek, he co-authored the definitive account of New York graffiti art, Subway Art, and a sequel on the art form's worldwide diffusion, Spraycan Art. Chalfant co-produced and did the background research and photo-documentation for the 1983 documentary film, Style Wars, first shown on PBS television in 1984. He is one of the foremost authorities on New York subway art. Other films include Flyin' Cut Sleeves, a documentary about Bronx street gang leaders in the 1970s; Visit Palestine: Ten Days on the West Bank, based on his visit to the occupied territories in 2000; and the more recent documentary about the South Bronx, From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale. The latest film chronicles two generations who grew up literally on the same streets of the Bronx, NY, and both used rhythm as their form of rebellion - for the older generation of the 1950s it was the pulsating rhythms of Cuba; for their children of the 1970s it was the rhythms of rap.
Chalfant has stated his influences are varied:
"In college my mentor was Charles Rowan Beye, the Greek scholar. I really didn't have a mentor for my art work, but I was influenced by great sculptors I admired like David Smith and Eduardo Chillida. For visual anthropology, I was influenced by the ethnographic filmmaker, Jean Rouch."
Henry married the actress Kathleen Chalfant (née Bishop) in 1966. They have two children, David Chalfant, who is a record producer and was the bass player for the folk-rock band The Nields, and Andromache Chalfant, who is a set designer in New York.
- Vee, Bravo (1998). "Henry Chalfant: Granddaddy of the Graff Flik". Stress Magazine 13.