The Hip Hop Photo Bookshelf
The mighty Rollin D tha Info Jugganaut returns with a slab of photo wildstyle love!
The spotlight this time is on the Holy Roller hip hop photo bookshelf, D reviews an incredible collection of hip hop photography, these stills of historical significance are brought together in such titles as Subway Art and The Hip Hop Files.
Hip hop scene super voyeurs like Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfont are synonymous with 1980′s hip hop culture photography. The iconic images of 80′s Bronx hip hop landscape and the original b-boy style and swagger are immortalised in some of the most important photographic journals ever.
NYC’s hip hop True School history is well documented, the irony is that it is a very small group that are responsible. Thanks goes out to those people who brought us this brilliant collection of hip hop roots and culture, right here on the HIP HOP PHOTO BOOKSHELF.
Holy Roller’s Hip Hop Photo Bookshelf is a set of books on our own shelf, that we consider significant tomes for the world of hip hop culture. Some are obvious and often cited, some are not. This is not intended to be The Definitive List. Especially not the definitive list of music photographers. Nor have we ventured into the world of graffiti photobooks… a whole genre of photography and photobooks in itself.
Martha Cooper – The Hip Hop Files
Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfont – Subway Art
The Queen Bee of Hip Hop photography, most people now know the story of Martha Cooper. While she was a photojournalist working for The New York Post newspaper, she would photograph children at play in Alphabet City in order to use up any films she had left before developing them. During this time she stumbled across and befriended a young graffiti artist, who opened up her world to become one of the most prolific documenters of early NYC graffiti and b-boy culture. The Hip Hop Files is rich collection of her work from the time she discovered graffiti culture through to 1984.
During this period Henry Chalfant was making his own discoveries, and in 1984 he joined forces with Cooper to publish Subway Art. This book hardly needs any introduction being the seminal highly regarded bible of early graffiti and graffiti artists as documented by Cooper and Chalfont. We got the 25th anniversary edition in all it’s A3 sized glory, for this edition Cooper and Chalfant revisted their archive and added a few new pieces to the collection. It’s hard to resist the temptation to rip out pages and stick them on the wall…
Cooper and Chalfant additionally hooked up with Charlie Ahearn to become the Trifecta of Seminal Early Hip Hop Documentarians.
These three all came from outside the community, history shows they all took their position pretty seriously and did what they could to responsibly support the young uptown scene. At one point Henry was even manager for the Rock Steady Crew!
Martha Cooper – Street Play
Check out Martha’s ‘pre-hiphop’ work in Street Play which contains images of kids playing in the street through the Lower Eastside, full of rundown and abandoned buildings. Kids made do with object and spaces they found around them. Cooper captures both the creativity of young people to make something out of nothing, and the struggle of the left over economic disaster of New York in late 60s into 70s. A favourite from this book is of kids silhouettes as they climb and hang off a tall wire fence.
Jamel Shabazz – Back in the Days
Jamel Shabazz – A Time before Crack
You really can’t beat Jamel Shabazz for his consistently dope street portraits of the most happening black youth on the streets of New York. Born and raised in Brooklyn, a personal project photographing his local communities created two books, Back in the Days and A Time Before Crack. These two books have become the not-so-secret bible for professional fashion stylists the world over scrambling to recreate elements of authentic street style.
Flip through, then play games of spotting direct references down your local high street, the living example of the butterfly effect. The young black and hispanic kids of New York, in the late 70’s and 80’s are the Original Butterflies.
Jamel Shabazz – Seconds of My Life
Seconds of my Life is the newer edition to Shabazz’s work, more like a full retrospective of his photography over 27 years. From the 80’s through the 90’s and into the 2000’s. If you’re gonna love his earlier work, support him through the ages and learn.
It’s interesting to note that Shabazz has always asked his subjects permission before photographing, the eye contact through the lens being a meeting of mutual respect.
Joe Conzo/Johan Kugelberg – Born in the Bronx – 12″ promo
Joe Conzo/Johan Kugelberg – Born in the Bronx – hardback
Excellent book predominantly of photos by Joe Conzo. Published by Johan Kugelberg, it’s a testament to the philanthropic art patron. If it wasn’t for the Kugelburg’s research he would not have met Joe Conzo and discovered the shoe box of gold – negatives stored away and saved by Joe’s mother. An amazing archive we may never have had the joy of experiencing, a unique record of the earliest days of hip hop.
Joe Conzo’s father, Joe Snr, was close friends with Tito Puente, Joe’s grandmother was high profile community activist, and Joe himself went to high school with the group of guys who became the Cold Crush Brothers. So Joe had access to some serious happenings. Being a friend, Joe was the official photographer for Cold Crush Brothers and had access to many early hip hop shows including when they famously stepped out in old school gangster style. Some of his most beautiful work gives us a true insight to the times are his street photos of the Bronx.
HRP were lucky enough to attend the promo exhibition in London 2005, before the full book was published. The exhibition catalog featured a beautifully designed ‘LP’ package with 2 books in side. Collectible!
The books also feature original flyers by Buddy Esquire and hand written lyrics by the likes of Easy A D.
Charlie Ahearn – Wild Style Sampler
Charlie Ahearn, Jim Fricke – Yes Yes Y’all
Charlie Ahearn’s main claim to fame is his cinematic dramatisation of the early hip hop scene in Wild Style. Anyone truly interested in early hip hop should really have the accompanying hardback book which features photographs and anecdotes looking back at the time of making the film.
Yes Yes Y’all is a more recent project led by Charlie Ahearn & Jim Fricke (The Experience Music Project) to collect interviews and anecdotes from many of the early NYC hip hop players. It again features a lot of Charlie’s own photography including some of the slides with names and doodles scratched onto the surface that Ahearn and Fab Five Freddy would play as a slideshows at the local jams and the Ecstasy Garage. These slideshows were so popular that they earned him the name of Charlie Video on various early party flyers.
Ricky Powell – The Rickford Files
Ricky Powell – Oh Snap! The Rap Photography of Ricky Powell
Ricky Powell – Public Access 1985-2005
Ricky Powell – Frozade Moments – a postcard book
Ricky Powell was made most memorable when name checked by his friends the Beastie Boys (in Car Thief on Paul’s Boutique). Otherwise known as the fourth Beastie Boy, he also snapped historic photographs through his work as unofficial and then official tour photographer in 1985 and 1987 with the Beastie Boys and Run DMC. Most ‘heads’ know all this already… So lets continue.
Powell is also known in his own right for being an animal rights advocating vegetarian and proud New Yorker who hosted his own PBS show called Rappin’ with the Rickster in the 90′s (Look out for the Best of Rappin’ with the Rickster released on DVD last year). NYC Public TV like a 90′s TV Party.
Oh Snap! & The Rickford Files with their Blue Note cover styling feature all his famous photos plus more. What’s great about these books is how Ricky has punctuated photos with personal notes and recollections. Highlights include shots of celebrities caught off guard on the street or in cahoots with Rick and his playful nature; Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, Sandra Bernhard.
Public Access is a retrospective in one book to include some of his newer street work, as well as his own illustrations and collages. A Holy Roller favourite is a photograph of Dondi White sitting on steps wearing classic black Doc Marten shoes.
Frozade Moments is a true gem of a postcard book. Buy two.
Janette Beckman – The Breaks: Stylin’ and Profilin’
Janette Beckman is an English photographer who started her career in the UK working for magazines like Melody Maker and NME. In 1982, after covering the New York City Rap tour at Hammersmith in London, she moved to New York.
Having already been into covering youth culture and style tribes, she found herself immersed in the street culture of NYC and the rising hip hop culture. She went on to shoot some of the most iconic portraits of successful pioneers of Hip Hop as featured in all their glory in this book.
Her influence has had far reach as exemplified by the fact that in 2007, MIA asked her to shoot her portrait because she liked the style of Beckman’s Salt n Pepa photos from the late 80′s.
Lisa Kahane – South Bronx: Don’t Give Way to Evil
Not really a hip hop book, Lisa Kahane’s book is more of a street photography chronicle of a historical place during the era of early hip hop. The crumbling, burning, devastated environment of the South Bronx, the rubble in which the young street culture of hip hop was born and raised.
Holy Roller have drawn on Lisa Kahane for her urban landscape photos that feature the sculptural reliefs of skipping Double Dutch girls by John Ahearn, also co-author of this book. John, twin brother of Charlie Ahearn, was well known for his sculptures of people in the uptown communities.
Kahane was the photographer for groundbreaking Fashion Moda, an uptown gallery run by downtown artists that became one of the early galleries to cross boundaries by exhibiting local young graffitti artists. John Ahearn exhibited here with work he created of members of the surrounding community. See the book for evidence. HRP connecting the dots!
PYMCA – Seen: Black Style UK
Published by the long running PYMCA, Photography of Youth Music Culture Archive in early 2002. Compiled by original founder Steve Lazarides and photo editor Jake Cunningham (now big in Getty).
This is a powerful compilation of photos from the UK Black music scene from the 70′s through the 90′s – featuring some great work by Normski of early UK hip hop crews and events, as well as early Hip Hop shows, Sound Systems and through the 90′s club scene.
Andy Beese / Beezer – Wild Days
Great collection of 80′s to 90′s Bristol scene as headed up by the Wild Bunch. Beezer has an amazing selection of photos from the clubs to the streets of a rich scene happening outside the mecca of London. The only, and rather large, criticism is that there are no captions or photo titles, so there’s no way of learning what’s what or who’s who. With this type of book – that’s essential.
Some faces are recognisable because the main players are the Wild Bunch (or those who went to form Massive Attack) – Grant Marshall (Daddy G), Claude Williams (Wille Wee), Robert Del Naja (3D) feature prominently in the book. Lee Quinones on a visit to the UK also makes an appearance.
Our copy is one ordered directly from the photographer himself, who published the book in Japan while living there.
[update Sept 2011 - Thanks to Jon Lewis] Recently republished by Tangent and stocked by PYMCA, you can now order your own copy with ease, the new edition also comes improved with a photo index of names and places. Rollin’ D would like to think she had a secret hand in this reissue having given Beezer the PYMCA contact suggesting his archive was invaluable and needed a home.
Geek note: various photos were published in the late 90’s editions of underground music mag APEMAN.
Ben Watts – Big UP
Probably not classed as an essential, this beautifully designed little book with street portraits often in Polaroid with hand written comments and doodles of Benn Watt’s exploration of 90’s street culture. Another book not specifically hip hop, but one that shows the influence of hip hop style on imagery from the 80′s through the 90′s. Yeah you want it.
Michael Benabib – In Ya Grill
Michael Benabib was another pro photographer who was around at the right time. His collection of photos include outtakes, backstage and official portraits takes us from the late 80’s through the rise of the hip hop industry from the late 80′s through the 90′s. His work shows the rise of Hip Hop as an industry and no longer just a street culture. Compiled by Bill Adler (who deserves lots of props for his promotion of historical visual culture of hip hop).
Books yet to make it onto the shelf but surely will in time:
B+ (Brian Cross) – the Mochilla famed artist, shot seminal photographs of JDilla, photo edited Rap Rages, photo editor of Wax Poetics has great style. Despite his prolific output, his only books are the hard to get 90′s book It’s Not About A Salary: Rap, Race and Resistence in Los Angeles and a photo book Working in Los Angeles, a Dickies workwear sponsored book… but we patiently await his first photographic monograph.
UK’s Normski should do a book as he has one of the best collections of UK street and hip hop culture from the 80′s
Ernie Paniccioli – Who Shot Ya? Three Decades of Hiphop Photography
Raph ‘Boogie’ Rashid – Behind the Beat: Hip Hop Home Studios
Simon Wheatley – Don’t Call Me Urban – Strictly UK Grime book
Lyle Owerko – The Boombox Project
Other notable photographers – Shawn Mortenson, music photographer took some interesting photos of Rammellzee.