Hosier Lane is a popular locale in Melbourne’s street-art scene. (Courtesy Maggie Zhang ’16)
Hosier Lane is a popular locale in Melbourne’s street-art scene. (Courtesy Maggie Zhang ’16)

As a high-school student in Syracuse, N.Y., photographer Maggie Zhang ’16 found art in unlikely places, including the walls of abandoned buildings in her hometown. She became fascinated with street art and began to seek it out, visiting New York City’s 5 Pointz, a now-defunct graffiti mecca, during her freshman year at Princeton. In August, with the help a Martin A. Dale ’53 Summer Award, Zhang explored one of the world’s great street-art centers: Melbourne, Australia.

Zhang spent part of her time photographing favorite murals and ephemera, but her primary goal was to learn more about the people behind the thriving street-art scene. Through interviews with artists, she found that the community covers a broad spectrum. Some are consultants by day, others paint as a form of political activism, and a few aspire to turn their street art into gallery exhibitions.

A Melbourne street-art piece by the artist Junky. (Courtesy Maggie Zhang)
A Melbourne street-art piece by the artist Junky. (Courtesy Maggie Zhang)

Two artists stood out, in Zhang’s view. One, known as Junky, turns bits of garbage into whimsical characters. His work, she said, has a message of sustainability and “just blends in so well” in a city where even the inside walls of restaurants and coffee shops display graffiti murals.

Zhang’s other favorite, Rone, turns images of models from magazines into large-scale paintings, which she said add “a subtle beauty to the city.”

Zhang, an English major studying abroad at University College London this fall, has been recording her experiences in a new blog, Searching for Street Art. It’s a work in progress, and her pace has slowed since her studies resumed in September. But she hopes to continue posting notes and photos throughout the year.

graffiti-coffeeshop
Graffiti decor at a Melbourne coffee shop. (Courtesy Maggie Zhang)
Melbourne, Zhang said, “is really a special place.” When she visited Prague a few weeks after leaving Australia, she found herself dismissing the local graffiti, like some sort of street-art snob. “I was so used to seeing good art all the time,” she laughs.