On February 1 this year, sometime after 10 o'clock at night, on a section of the CPR tracks in midtown Toronto, a young man was struck by an oncoming train. His name was Bardia Bryan Zargham. He was eighteen years old and he died a few hours later.
Zargham was a graffiti artist and he was writing his tag- his graffiti name- on the side of a stationary freight car when the train hit him. His tag was Alpha, the beginning of everything. Alpha was known as the king of the Bombers. He was that good at writing his name in big letters in a few short minutes and then moving on to it again and again and again. Hard core graffiti is not about painting pretty murals on easy-to-reach surfaces. It is about writing your name artfully against the law where everyone can see it at great personal risk.
Alpha tags are still everywhere in the city. And since his death, a companion graffiti has begun to appear, even on the wall of a police station, huge defiant letters spelling "RIP Alpha."
Finding Alpha was produced by Elizabeth Gray of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This program airs as part of our international documentary exchange series, Crossing Boundaries.
Exhibitions at Brooklyn Museum
Meet Space Invader and his different style of graffiti.
Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents
by: Nicholas Ganz 2004
Learn about the history of graffiti as well as meet the artists and their works.
Freight Train Graffiti
by: Roger Gastman, Ian Sattler, Darin Rowland 2006
Illustrations and interviews with 125 train artists.
The Graffiti Subculture: Youth, Masculinity and Identity in London and New York
by: Nancy Macdonald 2003
Find out why and how young men use graffiti to develop their identity.
The Art of Getting Over: Graffiti at the Millennium
by: Stephen Powers 1999
Explore the impact of graffiti since its beginning, and read what past and present artists have to say.