Jamel Shabazz: Proud Street Culture on Display

He chronicled the fashion shifts of stylish young Black New Yorkers in the 1980s and ’90s in photographs celebrated at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

When Jamel Shabazz was a teenager in Brooklyn, a gang member opened his eyes to the power of photography. Shabazz was introduced by a junior high school friend to one of the Jolly Stompers. During Shabazz’s visit to his apartment, the Stomper, who was only 18 or 19 himself, took out thick photo albums with pictures of his confederates. “They had a style I had never seen before,” Shabazz said. “They wore suits, and their pants had creases. You would never know they were in a gang.”

Why Jamel Shabazz Is New York’s Most Vital Street Photographer

Since the early 1980s, Shabazz has captured the energy of street life and hip-hop culture in New York, making indelible images of joy, style, and community.

New York is a ghost town. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the metropolis to a standstill. Many are scared to even leave their apartments to buy groceries. The globe-trotting photographer Jamel Shabazz is tucked away in his Long Island home, his “sanctuary.” Shabazz’s world is rocked daily by yet another phone call announcing the death of a loved one. It is a calendar of loss with which he is intimately familiar. He survived the 1980s crack era and the AIDS crisis, when so many friends from his Brooklyn neighborhoods—Red Hook and then East Flatbush—did not.

Jamel Shabazz: Represent

Although it’s too late to see Jamel Shabazz‘s “REPRESENT” at the Brooklyn Central Library, you will be able to bring them home in his new book, “REPRESENT: Photographs from 2005-2012