“I could document negative things or I can document images that give life…I’ve chosen to document images that give life…A lot of my work is visual medicine for people. It shows hope, it shows healing, it shows progress.”
-Jamel Shabazz via TRACE TV
The greatest mistake one can make in viewing Jamel Shabazz’s photography is also the easiest. The nostalgia work in his books, Back In The Days (2001) and A Time Before Crack (2005) after all, is far too seductive. It presents to you a time, a place, and the people who created the music and culture that revolutionized it: Hip Hop. It’s so easy to be swept away by the pull of its swagger, style and bravado that consummated this cultural phenomenon.
Whether his work exposes you visually to a time you are too young to remember, or it brings you back to a time when you were wild and free, one tends to reflect and utter, “Man those were the days.”
The scope of Jamel’s work is not limited to the two aforementioned books. For over thirty years, Jamel has taken on the role of a photojournalist, documentarian, and fashion photographer. His topics range from New York City’s Gay Pride Parade to gangs and the prison system.
The second issue of MAKER featured a photo series set in a small seaside town in New Jersey. He captured a group of young, urban kids dressed to the nines for a night on the town, but lost in a prim and proper boat town.