Daniel Albanese aka The Dusty Rebel is a New York City-based photographer and filmmaker behind the website TheDustyRebel™. He immerses himself in life on the streets of New York documenting the creatively rebellious side of urbanity: buskers, protests, Street Art, and people who hang out with pigeons! Since he was kid he was fascinated by graffiti and Street Art, he has been encapsulating New York street life and Street Art through photography and as a writer, lecturer, and documentarian.
With his background in anthropology, he has built a worldwide following documenting the more marginal aspects of the urban landscape, as well as controversial artworks, political protests, and city living. He recently began production on his first feature length documentary and book exploring the global Queer Street Art movement.
In 2013, he gave a series of lectures on street photography at Wheaton College as part of their Techpaths Lecture Series and the Evelyn Danzig Haas Visiting Artists Program. He has also been a reoccurring guest speaker for the City College of New York’s “History of Graffiti and Street Art” class. Daniel has also been interviewed for several street art documentaries such as, JANZ Artist in Time; Stick To It; and 190 Bowery.
In 2017, Daniel co-founded Street Cuts—an app and online store for digital and physical stickers created by real street artists—which he continues to curate.
Currently, he is developing articles and photo essays for Instagrafite, and for nearly a decade has contributed to various newspapers and blogs, including The New York Times, Life, The Huffington Post, Gothamist, ANIMAL New York, The Atlantic, Artnet, and Artinfo.
Daniel has exhibited in many of shows in New York City, such as the International Center of Photography’s “Occupy!” exhibition on Governors Island, and the Young New Yorkers Silent Art Auction.
His work has also been prominently featured in the several books, such as Banksy. You Are An Acceptable Level of Threat (4th edition); Art Is Trash by Francisco de Parajo; Post No Bills Poems by Robert Janz; Let Her Be Free by Icy & Sot; Lilyluciole, ou l’art de croire au Street Art by Lilyluciole; and upcoming books by Faith47, and Instant Art Exposure by Leanna Valente.
In this interview we discuss with Daniel about his experience as a documentarian but also about his upcoming exciting projects!
Julie: Let’s travel back in time, when did you start documenting the street art scene through photography?
Dusty Rebel: I have been documenting Street Art for well over a decade. Although I became fascinated with street art in the early 90’s when I discovered Jim Powers’ Mosaic Trail in the East Village. I was so curious who created it and why. But it wasn’t until the early 2000’s—with the rise of digital cameras—that I felt the freedom to begin shooting street art and the other subjects I’m now known for. Before than, film was too expensive for me to really run with photography.
Julie: I love your feed, your subjects are so diverse and not necessarily street art related. What do you like to shoot the most?
Dusty Rebel: My work is primarily focused on documenting those who use the public sphere for personal expression and to create community. Most of my subjects are using unconventional methods to connect or communicate with others. I think might be obvious with buskers, and street artists, but even my series documenting pigeon people is about community.
Julie: You just launched your exciting project how did that come about and what can we expect?
Dusty Rebel: My friend Jeff from Itsy Bitsy Media brought me and Tanooki Labs together to chat about developing a street art based digital sticker app. The more we talked about it, and I was certain we would create something that was true to street art culture and always kept the artist’s best interest in mind, the more I was excited to get it going. I especially loved that some artist’s sticker packs are made from their actual street art. For example, both HISS and City Kitty’s packs are made from my photos of their work on the street.
But ultimately, I think it’s a fun way to expand the way we communicate visually, using work by artist who excel at telling a story through their pieces.
Julie: I can imagine the time you must have spent on this ingenious project. What challenges came your way?
Dusty Rebel: Other than the technical aspects of building an app, and rounding up all the art, I think the most challenging was making sure our I was creating something that the artists would be happy to part of, and not in any way feel exploited. They maintain all rights to their work, and get a very fair share of the sales.
Julie: Could you talk me through the collaborative work with the participating artists prior to launching the app?
Dusty Rebel: For Street Cuts, I work very close with our artists. In the development phase, it was very important to not only hear any of their concerns, but to think of ways we could really push the boundaries of digital sticker art. I wanted them to think outside the box and bring their voices to the app, rather than try to conform to the technology. Primarily, I’m looking for artists who are storytellers.
Julie: Tell me more about the artists and their works presented in your street art based stickers app.
Dusty Rebel: The app is a growing collective that I will continue to curate as we go. First off, I wanted active street artists, especially those who put out work without permission. I also was looking for artist who had playful characters, or who’s work could communicate emotion or told a story, since that is the primary function of these digital stickers.
Julie: For me the NY street art scene is unique, what do you like the most about it?
Dusty Rebel: While the New York scene might not be as prolific as it used to be, we still have some amazing artists who are really innovative. Nora Breen for example, who puts video installations on the street. But in the end, New York is an international city, which attracts artist from all over the world. I love finding “imported” Street Art.
Julie: I sadly missed the launch event in NYC. How was it?
Dusty Rebel: It was a lot of fun! All the artists created original work—based on texting or their digital sticker packs—for the launch. The week leading up to the show, I had planted dozens of postcards all over the city. I was really excited to see how many people tracked them down and brought them to collect a pack of stickers and art. And of course it was awesome to see Ramones’ drummer Marky Ramone pop up at the launch!
Julie: Do you have more to come with your project that you can share with us at this stage?
Dusty Rebel: We have several more artists on the way. I’m hoping to have them added before the end of the year. We also have a few more ticks up our sleeves, so stay tuned!
Daniel Albanese | The Dusty Rebel LLC