August 31, 2014 2:12 pm

Toronto photographer embarks on a mission to rid city of graffiti

ABOVE: Find out how photographer George Pimentel is fighting back against graffiti in his neighbourhood 

It’s a form of graffiti spotted everywhere in the city. It’s called tagging, where the graffiti artist paints their signature.

“I’m just tired of seeing tagging all over the city,” lamented George Pimentel, as he painted over the graffiti splashed on his neighbour’s fence.

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“For me, this is not art,” said the well-known celebrity photographer who creates art for a living. He counts Angelina Jolie, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Johnny Depp among the people he has photographed.

Three years ago, Pimentel voluntarily began painting over graffiti tags near his Dundas Street West and Lansdowne Avenue studio.

“I called the City of Toronto. They wouldn’t do anything because we’re dealing with private property. Maybe my neighbours will catch on. It’s like sweeping your floor. Take care of your space. It makes the community look better.”

Pimentel went further than just erasing the graffiti. He also installed security cameras outside his studio in an effort to catch the culprits.

Last Thursday, his surveillance captured a group of young men spray painting the building across from his studio.

“They were laughing. They climbed on each other’s shoulders.”

“I hand in video tapes. I’m working with police. And they go and catch them,” added Pimentel.

It is a criminal offence to vandalize private property, with Toronto Police laying charges of mischief.

Authorities urge victims of graffiti to remove it as quickly as possible because it lessens the likelihood that it will happen again.

“They end up wasting their paint on me. So they’ll just figure we’ll waste their paint on someone else,” said Pimentel.

He believes his building falls victim to spray paint less often than his neighbours because of his fast action.

But in order to decrease graffiti vandalism long-term, Pimentel encourages the painting of large pieces of artwork called murals.

“This will prevent the taggers from tagging. The taggers respect art.”

The City of Toronto has a program that promotes street art. StreetARToronto tries to develop and promote the painting of murals while combating unwanted graffiti.

“I think the city needs to get a bigger program. Get students and artists involved,” said Pimentel.

In the meantime, he will continue to paint over the graffiti in his community.

“Tagging will always be there,” he admitted, although he’s trying his best to prevent it.

Even if it never goes away for good, he’ll push as hard as he can.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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