Together with Bill Cunningham, Jamel Shabazz has been a forerunner to modern street style photography. But where Cunningham often portrayed wealthy fashionistas at Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, Shabazz has pointed his camera at young, black kids in some of Brooklyn and the Bronx’s roughest neighbourhoods. The main theme is a youth proud of its culture.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Shabazz has visually represented urban New York for the last 40 years and has been the most influential photographic chronicler of the city’s hip hop culture. In the 1980s and 1990s, Shabazz’s images were relatively unknown outside the core hip-hop community. It wasn’t until 1998 when he took his portfolio to The Source, a leading hip hop magazine, which in its high-profile hundredth issue published twelve pages of Shabazz’s portraits of urban street life, that his images met a broader audience. The portfolio soon led to a contract for Shabazz's first book, Back in the Days, published in 2001.
Before Shabazz could make a living out of his photography, he worked for 20 years as a corrections officer, part of the time at the infamous Rikers Island prison and mental institution. Since his debut, Shabazz has published six more books, received the prestigious The Gordon Parks Foundation/Steidl Books prize, and has been represented at exhibitions around the world.
Based: New York
Published books: Back in the Days (2002), The Last Sunday in June (2003), A Time Before Crack (2005), Seconds of my Life (2007), Sights in the City (2017), Back in the Days (2017), City Metro (2020).