Photographer Jamel Shabazz’s Hip-Hop Influence is the Subject of New Documentary (Video)

Throughout the ’80s, a Brooklyn man named Jamel Shabazz began messing around with a camera, documenting the style and fashion surrounding him on New York City streets. Fast forward three decades and his name is mentioned whenever the topic of Hip-Hop photographers comes up, and rightly so. He has been featured in countless exhibitions around the world and his photos of African-American culture have become emblematic of Hip-Hop as he managed to document the colorful, bold, and unique forms of self-expression developing in its Birthplace. Now, he has become the subject of a new documentary, available now for streaming.

Jamel Shabazz: Street Photographer was directed by Charlie Ahearn, the visionary behind Wild Style, arguably one of the most iconic Hip-Hop films in history. In celebration of its release, Juxtapoz magazine interviewed the legendary shutterbug to find out more about his inspiration and the ways in which his career has grown over the years. According to Shabazz, his initial inspiration evolved “on a very frigid winter night in West Germany…to keep my sanity, I would try to vividly remember everything I could about my beloved Brooklyn, from the people I knew, the stores I patronized, graffiti, the fashion and the trains. It was at the moment that I promised myself that when I returned home, I would use my camera to document the world around me so that I would never be without memories.”

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Shabazz also shares some of his experience working for the Department of Corrections and how that played a role in the development of his budding portfolio. “Becoming a Correction Officer around the same time that crack cocaine was introduced to New York City, helped to fuel my passion and commitment to use my voice and vision to sound the alarm that serious danger was on the horizon,” he states. “As a conscious officer, I strove to do the best I could to offer guidance and direction to the young men that I worked with. Photography often became the magnet that drew many to me and I would use it as a tool to talk about a number of issues, the main being the need to stop the violence and reevaluate our lives and goals.”

The new film is available now for online streaming for $14.99, with a physical DVD dropping October 27. Check out the trailer below (which features KRS-One), and to read more about Shabazz’s fascinating story, head to Juxtapoz to read the full interview.

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