Words by Fatima Barrie
Born and bred in Brooklyn, NY, Jamel Shabazz is one of New York’s most prominent and influential photographers. For nearly 40 years, Shabazz has captured images of the evolving era of culture, Hip-Hop, and street style of young black and Latin people of New York. He’s most popularly recognized for his breathtaking photos that documented the emergence of Hip-Hop in the 1980’s.
After being enlisted into the Vietnam War, Shabazz came back to an unfamiliar Brooklyn. His once beloved hometown was now struck by violence, and the crack epidemic was slowly trickling in. His aim as a photographer was to preserve the culture and uplift his community by shedding light on positivity. Shabazz was able to fulfill this by engaging and building relationships with every person he photographed. Doing this, he captured the essence of their being, telling a unique story through their pose. The influence of Hip-Hop heavily shined through in his shots. Boomboxes, bamboo earrings, shelltoe sneakers, and oversized glasses were elements that pinpoint authentic 80’s and 90’s style. In an interview with the Bronx Museum Teen Council, Shabazz explained that one of his first published works was featured in The Source Magazine’s 1998 100th issue, “The Greatest Moments of Hip-Hop.” The sold out issue dedicated multiple pages to his photos, introducing readers to a whole new world; images of regular people in the hood who looked just like them. What people appreciated then and now about his work is his perspective of beauty and embrace of diversity in African-American neighborhoods. His powerful photos oozed cool and originality like no other. His images have been shared in several exhibitions worldwide and he has written books displaying his distinguished catalogue. Enjoy this blast from the past gallery celebrating Jamel Shabazz’s legacy.