“Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer,” the new documentary about the photographer whose books Back in the Days and A Time Before Crack chronicled the rise of hip hop culture in New York in the 1980s, is playing this week at BAM Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn. It will also be shown in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco this fall.
The movie follows Shabazz as he photographs on the subway and in the neighborhoods that he has photographed since the 1970s. It includes extensive interviews with him about his photography.
Directed by Charlie Ahearn, who also directed “Wild Style,” about early rap, “Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer” includes interviews with Fab Five Freddy, KRS-One and other musicians from the day. They probably help draw in audiences. But once in the theater, they’ll learn that Shabazz was interested in more than just the music and the culture. He was also trying to celebrate life in a community that was often ignored by the media, by outsiders, by government.
In a 2010 interview with PDN, Shabazz said, “It’s about recording history for future generations to see, and showing the dignity and the integrity in our community, something that’s not often shown in the media.”
Shabazz worked as a corrections officer in Riker’s Island, the New York City detention center. After working a shift, he would come home to Brooklyn and take photos as an antidote. He got in the habit of carrying fruit in his pockets that he would give away, in order to encourage kids to have a healthy snack. “I look for love, compassion, the human spirit of a person.” he told PDN.
You can view the trailer on Vimeo.