Walking down Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, photographer Nick Stern came across graffiti that caught his attention. Street artist Common Cents had painted a piece that said: “You are a miracle.” But someone had come after him and altered his wording to “You are not Banksy.”
Others would have thought it rather harsh, but for Stern that phrase was just right—for himself, that is. The London-born photographer decided that it would be the title of the photo series he was working on, a studio re-enactment of Banksy’s most iconic stencil work.
Stern is a big fan of Banksy’s. “I particularly like the social comment in his work,” he communicated in an email. Still, “You are not Banksy” was never meant to be an actual photo project. He’d originally thought of it more as a creative exercise, a way to test some new photo strobe lights. The first image he photographed was the flower thrower, his favorite Banksy graffiti. “I got such a good response from people that I decided to expand the shoot,” he wrote.
Though Banksy’s agent and publisher have seen the series, Stern doesn’t know whether Banksy himself has. He hasn’t gotten any feedback from the notoriously discreet graffiti star. As the creator of the photographs, Stern adds that even though he’s happy with the result, he can’t help but notice the inaccuracies and mistakes.
But it’s not too late for the perfect shot: The series is not over yet. Stern won’t reveal specifics, but he says he may have to get a leopard for one and a tank for another. And if those props don’t ring any bells, then you are not a real Banksy fan.