One B, Two Z's. A conversation with street photographer and cultural documentarian Jamel Shabazz
January 7, 2013 by Max Gibson
A 110 Kodak Instamatic was his weapon, the borough of Brooklyn his battleground. The year was 1975. Before the devastation brought on by widespread gun violence and the crack epidemic, Brooklyn was a cherished destination. Celebrated for its vibrancy and unapologetic grit, the city flourished throughout the mid ’70s, recognized for its diversity as a melting pot for a range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
For photographer and street documentarian Jamel Shabazz, this eclectic and sometimes dangerous environment was home. Inspired to pursue photography when his father introduced him to the craft, Jamel turned the streets of Brooklyn into his canvas, his camera serving as an intermediary through which he could engage with his surrounding environment. Documenting the lives of the personalities that inhabited this vibrant terrain, Jamel’s subjects were the boys, girls, players, pimps, students and hustlers who also called Brooklyn home.
Looking back, Jamel’s work captures a seemingly effortless cool that permeated the streets and defined an era–the individuals immortalized in his photographs embody the confidence, pain, struggle and pride that gave birth to the hip-hop generation.
Today, Jamel is recognized as a seminal figure in the evolution of hip-hop culture on the whole, his photographs offering a captivating glimpse into a time period unlike any other. Forever dedicated to telling the stories of his subjects through his images, to the world he may be known as a photographer–but to those that stood before his lens, perhaps Jamel Shabazz might be better described as a hero. In our brief dialogue, Jamel lent insight into a number of topics, from the origins of “cool”, to the role instincts play in photography, to the impact of the crack cocaine epidemic on his community. Throughout, Jamel was thoughtful and warm, eager to share his work and wisdom with a new generation of creatives.
• • •
Read our full interview with Jamel Shabazz here
January 7, 2013 BY Max Gibson
Superimposed photography from Detroit's vibrant past
January 4, 2013 by Max Gibson
Detroit. Once America’s promising haven for economic growth and prosperity has since fallen into a dismal free-fall of despair and deprivation. A symbol of America’s industrial might in the 1950’s, during the decade Detroit held the countries’ highest median income and the highest rate of home ownership. Unfortunately, the past sixty years haven’t been as kind to the Motor City; the decline and relocation of the American auto industry from Detroit to Mexico and other countries offering cheaper labor costs left the city in dire straits. With the loss of industry came the loss of jobs, and with the loss of jobs came a devastating downturn in the city’s population. In an unprecedented arc of growth and decline, the past century has seen Detroit’s population surge from a mere 285,700 in 1910, to over 1,800,000 in 1950, only to shrink back to a discouraging figure of 713,000 in the year 2010. With little industry and a still declining population, today, in many ways Detroit has become a symbol of the process of urban decay.
Fortunately, there are those who care about Detroit’s past and subsequent future. In efforts to “raise awareness of the social and economic challenges the city of Detroit faces,” urban exploration enthusiasts simply known as Detroiturbex have compiled a collection of captivating photos documenting the rise and fall of America’s illustrious city. Focusing their lens on Lewis Cass Technical High School, the project documents the school’s rise and subsequent fall by superimposing vintage photographs from the school, on top of identically composed pictures of the abandoned school’s now dilapidated environment. In doing so, the project serves as a sobering visual time capsule of Detroit’s vibrant past and dreary present.
January 4, 2013 BY Max Gibson
Mixed media artist Jesse Draxler on influence, inspiration and the beauty of monochrome
December 22, 2012 by Will Bundy
When I first came across the work of Jesse Draxler, it was his sketchbook series that pulled me in. Borrowing bits and pieces from media both old and new, and filling in the empty space around them with colorful touches of his own, even Jesse’s roughest collage work put on display nothing so much as an expansive imagination. More importantly, it offered a brief, but valuable glimpse into the artist’s creative process. Less than a year after my discovery, Jesse’s evolution as an artist was happening fast, from solo shows in Echo Park and Minneapolis, to commissions for The New York Times.
Over the coming months, his collage and design work seemed to become increasingly focused, often stripping away loud color in favor of razor sharp intentionality and aesthetic cohesion. These days, Jesse’s series are striking and exact–psychological and often dark, with images and ideas juxtaposed in unexpected and thought-provoking ways. Themes of sexuality, and occasionally, violence predominate in some collections, while others simply play off geometric shapes or aesthetic principles. But each piece comes as a part of a bigger whole, with each series giving us a look at a new corner of that ever-expanding imagination. A few months removed from showcasing his Untitled series at our Black & White show this summer, we figured it was time to catch up with Jesse once again, and to explore with him all the places he’s been at artistically of late. From the mythology of Basquiat to the power of simplicity, read on for a glimpse inside the mind of Jesse Draxler.
December 22, 2012 BY Will Bundy
London-based photographer Luca Sage explores Accra's vibrant youth boxing scene
December 17, 2012 by Max Gibson
Travel the world, take pictures? Surely it’s a lifestyle more than a few of us aspire to. With a camera never too far from his side, London-based photographer Luca Sage has made a career out of documenting culture since falling into the field of social anthropology through his studies at the University of Swansea. Most recently, Sage set his lens upon the adolescent fighters of Jamestown, a storied district in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, where he was able to capture the beauty, the triumph and the violence that characterize the widely popular boxing matches. Powerfully depicting the action and excitement of the fights, Luca’s photographs reveal how the matches serve as both an avenue for entertainment and a function of community. Recently, we chatted with Luca in depth about his documentary work, from the challenges of photographing fights, to the importance of boxing in Ghanian society, to what it’s like to be chased by an elephant.
December 17, 2012 BY Max Gibson
How a tiny island nation orchestrated the world's first eco-revolution
December 14, 2012 by Will Bundy
“This is the story of an unsung people, who took on Papua New Guinea, Australia and the biggest mining company in the world–who started by fighting helicopter gunships with bows and arrows, and who have lost a tenth of their population–and yet have managed to create what may be the world’s first true eco-revolution.”
When I saw Michael Lewis speak in Berkeley the other night, he said something pretty revelatory about his creative process as a writer. Basically, he told us that his favorite part of his creative process as a storyteller was finding a story too good to fuck up–that he found himself motivated most by the fact that he’d been entrusted to tell a story so compelling in and of itself, that even if he told it just competently, it would make for something entirely captivating. I’d imagine British director Dom Rotheroe must have felt the same way about the story he found upon arriving, flanked by revolutionary soldiers, in a tiny boat on the shores of Bougainville. His film, The Coconut Revolution, released a decade ago, tells the improbable story of an indigenous people whose sheer force of will and ingenuity overcame staggering odds. It’s the story of their fight for their land, their culture, and their independence–and of a rare and extraordinary exception to what tends to be the rule of global capitalism.
December 14, 2012 BY Will Bundy
Bun B curates a colorful glimpse into the world of hip-hop
December 10, 2012 by Max Gibson
Man, leave it to Bun B to be always be a step ahead of the curve. The first rapper to hop on Greedy Genius? I mean come on, the vision, the foresight, tremendous. Then the Sean Kingston collabo? I mean come on. It’s not hard to see why Bun has remained a respected figure in the game with power moves like these. But in all seriousness, Bun B is really on to some cool shit with the curation of the Rap Coloring Book. A collaboration between the formidable B and writer slash illustrator Shea Serrano, the Rap Coloring Book is in fact Bun B’s Jumbo Coloring And Rap Activity Tumblr which has recently acquired a book deal of its own. Featuring our most beloved rappers of today’s hip hop landscape, the book serves as a who’s who reference guide to who was poppin around the year 2012. With Nicki by the Numbers pages situated next to Tyga Word scrambles within the City of Rack, Bun B’s Jumbo Coloring and Rap Activity Book is quite simply tight as fuck.
December 10, 2012 BY Max Gibson
Massimo Bartolini's outdoor library in the middle of Ghent
December 6, 2012 by Max Gibson
Championing a similar cause to that of Arma De Instruccion Masiva (or The Weapon of Mass Instruction), Italian mixed media artist Massimo Bartolini completed his installation of twelve bookcases situated within the grassy field of St. Peter’s Abbey Vineyard this summer in Ghent, Belgium. Constructed in conjunction with the Belgian Art Festival, TRACK, the installation housed thousands of books from public libraries who volunteered to put their inventory on display for purchase in the park. Working with a quasi-honor system type set up for the payment process, patrons of the outdoor library were instructed to leave a donation inside a small box next the shelves. With the profits going towards these institutions, it’s hard to say whether the initiative has become much of a money maker for the libraries. At the very least though, The Bookyard is a pretty dope way to disseminate information in the 2012. Hit the MORE for a conversation with Bartolini about the inspiration and execution of the project.
December 6, 2012 BY Max Gibson
The erotic artwork of Fulvia Monguzzi at Venus Gallery
December 3, 2012 by Will Bundy
Lots of lovely shit to talk about here. Most prominently, bright, radiant colors and graphic sex scenes, illustrated simply and playfully by Italian artist Fulvia Monguzzi. There are also a handful of beautiful black-and-whites, which fall somewhere on the spectrum between stately and scribbly, and which also feature no shortage of crazy positions and genitalia of all shapes and sizes. Far from being simply an erotic artist though, Monguzzi’s body of work is as varied as it is colorful, from eroticism to illustrations that would feel quite at home in children’s books, and from simple drawings to mixed media collage.
Venus, the digital-only gallery currently featuring her work, on the other hand, leans a bit more heavily toward the explicitly sexual and the sexually explicit. Dedicated to showcasing and exploring all things erotic across multiple artistic disciplines, the Italian gallery seeks to present these works in a space free from the often moralistic discussion and preconceived notions that often accompany their subject matter. Aside from that, the forward-thinking digital gallery concept offers art lovers from around the globe the chance to interact with these works, and even to cop a piece if they feel so inclined. Needless to say, Monguzzi’s work is a great place to start, but Venus has already amassed an impressive digital and physical collection, featuring work from luminaries like Richard Kern and Nobuyushi Araki, to name just a few. Check Venus out here, and make sure to explore a bit more of Monguzzi’s diverse collection of work here. And thanks to the good folks at Pas Un Autre for the heads up.
December 3, 2012 BY Will Bundy
Suehiro Maruo conjures up your worst nightmares
November 28, 2012 by Bob Sagat
I was first exposed to Suehiro Maruo’s hypnotically grotesque artwork while lurking the magazine section of Tower Records (RIP), when I happened to stumble upon a special Japanese art edition of Juxtapoz. I was already familiar with the level of violence, sexuality and general depravity adult manga artists were capable of, but Maruo encapsulated those various themes in such an elegant “I almost feel bad for thinking this is pretty” kind of way. A self-taught high school dropout, Maruo’s surreal horror worlds are influenced by the poetic nature of traditional Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock paintings, and elements of Western pulp art. His focus on deformities, birth defects, violence and sexuality all work in unison to form pleasantly uncomfortable works that have garnered him an international cult following, despite the fact that few of his works have been published outside of Japan. Who knew that such fucked up shit could be this beautiful?
November 28, 2012 BY Bob Sagat
A look into the photographic world of London-based photographer Coral Amiga
November 22, 2012 by Max Gibson
Photography By Coral Amiga
In a sense, glancing at Coral Amiga’s photographs offers an escape; a window into a distant life with touches of familiarity. Whimsical yet lasting, Coral’s work manages to encompass a level of mystery within each shot. Who are her subjects and where are they now? Do they talk about the same things we talk about? All questions raised, but left deliberately unanswered by Coral’s ever attentive lens. Recently I had the opportunity to ask Coral about her fascination with capturing moments and the ethos behind her passion for photography. Her response, “I never really knew what I wanted to photograph or why. I would just always carry a camera with me, with the hope that something would inspire me. There was no real pressure or motivation beforehand, but then as soon as something caught my eye there would be this real sense of urgency. An overwhelming feeling that would propel me to take a picture.” With a number of captivating series on her personal site, Even Artichokes Have Hearts serves only as our first introduction to Coral’s work. Stay tuned for what she does next.
November 22, 2012 BY Max Gibson
A cartoon rap god introduces himself via psychedelic art film
November 19, 2012 by Will Bundy
So whoever’s behind this project is having a hell of a lot of fun with it. Having rolled out a handful of top-notch, dusty ass jams over the last few months, Captain Murphy, the mysterious artist represented only by a cartoon character bearing heavy resemblance to Ricky Rozay, has captured the imagination of just about every indie or hip-hop blog out there. So let’s do a quick review of what we know so far. For one, they’ve got some famous friends, at least one of which might actually be “him”: Tyler, Earl, FlyLo, Just Blaze, Madlib, the list goes on. Secondly, they really dig cartoons. Third, the pitch-fucked vocals, as warped as they are, seem pretty damn consistent with Tyler and Earl’s respective flows. At this point, you can probably piece together your own theory, based on all the evidence.
In any case, unraveling the mystery doesn’t quite seem like the point here. All speculation aside, the Captain Murphy campaign just seems like a cool way to present an artist, or maybe more accurately, an idea, or an aesthetic. As far as I can tell, Murphy actually is a cartoon character, voiced by a few familiar faces with big imaginations. Plus, the music’s actually fucking great. Duality accompanies all those excellent songs in epic fashion, a half hour saga-mixtape-episode (viewable below), complete with grainy cult footage, acid trip animations, classic ’80s movie clips, and all different types of other strangely juxtaposed shit–kung fu, graphic sex, even clips from that trippy ass Simpsons episode where Homer gets stuck in 3-D. Whatever it is you want to call it, this is some of the coolest shit I’ve seen all year.
November 19, 2012 BY Will Bundy
The latest from the Bristol-based illustrator
November 13, 2012 by Will Bundy
I know I wasn’t the only one blown away when Danny so graciously put us up on his good friend George. Now, just shy of a year after our interview with the Bristol-based illustrator, he’s busier than ever, putting in work on everything from comics to collaborative zines to plush toys. Back when we first featured his work, George told us about the colorful set of influences that have sparked his creativity, from Tank Girl to 2000 A.D.. It should be no surprise then that George has kept his signature aesthetic in tact, not to mention his penchant for subversive humor and playful, cartoony imagery, creating the kind of vibrant stylistic universe that might feel at home on say, Adult Swim. The collection here is just a snapshot of George’s latest work, borrowed from his Tumblr, from freelance work on zines to full-fledged comic strips and beyond. Expect to see more from him soon.
November 13, 2012 BY Will Bundy