A reader recently posed the following question via e-mail, which I will answer in the traditional "ask the judgmental hipster asshole" fashion:

Q. Dutch, why the fuck do you always take pictures of Juniper in front of graffiti?

A. I lived in Pittsburgh for a month or so when I was studying for the bar exam and when I was drunk one sweltering afternoon I saw this Cable Access documentary on the Pittsburgh graffiti scene. There's this guy named Mook who leaves his tag in ridiculously precarious spots on top of bridge towers. The documentary was interesting and made me look at graffiti in a whole new light. Also, Wood's dad is a probation officer who knows the guy in charge of the city's effort to clean up all the graffiti. His stories of taking on the graffiti artists made HBO's The Wire look like the Keystone Kops. There was this cool bike trail along a Pittsburgh highway wall that was covered in graffiti. I really started to respect the talent of the people who were doing it, in a gay 1978 Manhattan art gallery kind of way, I guess.

When I first moved to San Francisco, I noticed the city has this thriving poser hip hop DJ culture that just cracked my shit up, and, as their books on early eighties hip hop that they buy at Giant Robot tell them, graffiti is as important to hip hop culture as "bustin' rhymes over beats." Don't get me wrong, I went through it, too. But that was high school. These people were in their thirties.

Any feelings of appreciation I had for street art felt like cliche, so I buried them. One time Wood, Juniper and I were riding the N-Judah through the tunnel under Buena Vista Park and four dudes in baggy clothing walked up and down the train with big permanent markers tagging the windows and empty seats. Everyone on the half-full train just ignored them. Wood and I couldn't help but laugh at the lameness of it. San Francisco is like hip hop Disneyland: it's got the gritty urban architecture, a population of bored white youth listening to underground hip hop, and yet it's perfectly fucking safe, even for sidewalk babies. There are commissioned graffiti murals on buildings that have $2 million condos inside. Graffiti is constantly being incorporated into ad campaigns and corporate billboards to lend street authenticity to the products advertised. I thought, what could be the ultimate emasculation of San Francisco graffiti as hip hop posturing? Why, taking pictures of a weak ass little baby in front of it, of course!

Bottom line: I thought these shots were funny.

But as time went on and I kept doing it, I realized I was really starting to appreciate again this "vandalism" that brings color and ad-less flavor to the advertising permeated streets. Besides, no one wants to see the pile of toys or the half-empty laundry hamper cluttering your living room in pictures of your kids. The vibrant colors and loopy, indecipherable letters of graffiti made perfect backgrounds. So I co-opted the art for my own purposes, you could say, just like the corporations I hated. But I loved that even the street artists who could make good money doing it legitimately still crept out at night and broke the law and created art for its own sake, leaving "letters from God dropt in the street, and every one sign'd by God's name"; art free for anyone to appreciate or scorn. Like blogging, I guess, only more beautiful. Through the photographs I was able to borrow from the transient beauty of this art, to make a visual record of this part of Juniper's life living here, in a city filled with color where people come and people go just like the words and spraypaint on the walls, which get replaced as soon as they are washed away.

I've got a whole flickr set of these "Graffiti Girl" pictures, and I've started a flickr group for you to upload shots of your babies in front of graffiti in your own towns, if you are so inclined.

Oh, and if anyone else wants to ask us any big questions, we'd be happy to do further Q&As. Ask in the comments or by e-mail.