Though Chalfant said many graffiti writers embraced his role as a documentarian, when Chalfant joined director Tony Silver to produce Style Wars in 1983, it gave the movement unprecedented exposure—though that wasn’t entirely positive.
“Audiences were divided almost down the middle,” said Chalfant. “There were those who considered it art and those who considered it vandalism.”
The people in their film had mixed reactions, too. “The fact that we were taking photographs of what was going on changed things, and it wasn’t always for the better,” Chalfant said. Kids didn’t have to hone their talents on train cars; they could study his photos instead. “[The artists] saw that as a threat to their originality. Me, Martha Cooper, and other filmmakers were thinking, ‘Well, we are actually altering what was a kind of culture, so we're actually part of the process of destroying it.’ Of course it’ll be replaced and recreated elsewhere, but we did have that sense that what we were doing was not all good.”