Shabazz, Jamel 1960-
SHABAZZ, Jamel 1960-
PERSONAL: Born 1960, in Brooklyn, NY.
CAREER: Freelance photographer. Employed by New York City Department of Correction. Exhibitions: Work exhibited at Brooklyn Museum of Art, Kravets/Wehby Gallery, PowerHouse Gallery, and New York Folklore Society, all New York, NY; Dazed and Confused Gallery, London, England; Adidas Originals, Berlin, Germany; Trace's "True Signs," Paris, France; and in Canada, Argentina, Japan, Italy, and the Netherlands.
Back in the Days, introduction by "Fab Five" Freddy Braithwaite, essay by Ernie Paniccioli, Power-House Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Last Sunday in June, introduction by Emil Wilbekin, PowerHouse Books (New York, NY), 2003.
A Time before Crack, introduction by Claude Grunitzky, text by Charlie Ahearn and Terrence Jennings, afterword by James "Koe" Rodriguez, PowerHouse Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Source and Vibe.
SIDELIGHTS: Jamel Shabazz was fifteen years old when he began his photographic documentation of his New York home, from the streets of Brooklyn and the Bronx to Harlem and Manhattan. He has worked as a wedding photographer, as well as focusing on specific subjects, including Ground Zero in post-September 11 New York City. His first published collection, Back in the Days, captures the 1980s hip-hop culture in photographs of B-boys and B-girls from ages nine to twenty-four, wearing their brand-name clothing and gold chains during a time when Run-DMC and Grand Master Flash were creating the new sound. Most of Shabazz's subjects look straight into the camera as they strike their poses. The flamboyant look of that era is explained in an essay by Ernie Paniccioli that places it in an historical context.
As Guy Trebay wrote in the New York Times, "One can probably overplay the mysterious workings of that strung out spirit of the age, the zeitgeist. But occasionally a book or a movie or a song comes along whose influence springs up simultaneously in all kinds of unexpected places. Back in the Days is that book." Betty Ann Jordan, writing in Toronto Life on an exhibition of photographs that included images from this collection, noted that "the funked-out beats and Jangling rhymes form a sort of unheard soundtrack." Although drugs and violence have their place in Shabazz's work, Back in the Days is primarily a celebration of music and community.
Evan Serpick wrote in Entertainment Weekly that in Back in the Days "the smells and sounds seem to drift off the page"; and Library Journal reviewer Shauna Frischkorn noted that Shabazz "documents his 'passion for photography and his love for his people' while raising important issues of racial justice and equality." In Black Issues Book Review Franklin Sirmans wrote: "Even without formal training—which sometimes is an obstacle in the world of serious art—Shabazz manages to capture the essence of early hip hop with keen visual perception."
Beginning in June 1990, Shabazz began photographing the gay pride celebrations held annually on the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. A collection of his pictures, Last Sunday in June, captures gays, lesbians, transgender men and women, and drag queens, most minimally clad in colorful costumes and representing a wide range of races, classes, and cultures. As a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote, "In pages of photographs uninterrupted by text, the glamour and dignity of the queer community sparkles." Ken Johnson reported in the New York Times on an exhibition of some of these photographs, commenting that "Shabazz is the best kind of photojournalist: one driven simply by curiosity about other human beings." Shabazz drew on the thousands of photographs he had taken in the 1970s and 1980s for A Time before Crack, a celebration of families in a time when, although plagued by unemployment and poverty, urban neighborhods had yet to suffer the consequences of that drug on their communities.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Issues Book Review, May-June, 2002, Franklin Sirmans, review of Back in the Days, p 22.
Entertainment Weekly, March 15, 2002, Evan Serpick, review of Back in the Days, p. 72.
Library Journal, April 1, 2002, Shauna Frischkorn, review of Back in the Days, p. 104.
New York Times, May 5, 2002, Guy Trebay, "Hip-Hop Flashbacks: Flatbush Is in the House," review of Back in the Days, section 9, p. 6; July 18, 2003, Ken Johnson, "Last Sunday in June: A Decade of Photographs" (exhibition review), p. E2.
Publishers Weekly, June 2, 2003, review of Last Sunday in June, p. 49.
Toronto Life, May, 2003, Betty Ann Jordan, "The Birth of Cool" (exhibition review), p. 50.
Vogue, January, 2002, Bess Rattray, review of Back in the Days, p. 57.
PowerHouse Books Web site, http://www.powerhousebooks.com/ (April 28, 2005), "Jamel Shabazz."