Back in the Days, photographer Jamel Shabazz’s classic photo book on 1980s street style and the roots of hip hop culture, has never been in out of print since it was published in 2001. Now Shabazz’s collection of street photography is getting a fun remix. Book publisher powerHouse Books, which published the original Back in the Days and a tenth anniversary collectors edition, has just released a coloring book version. Back in the Days Coloring Book presents a selection of Shabazz’s photos, made in New York City between 1980 and 1989, but digitized to remove the colors.
If you’re nostalgic for the Kangol caps, Adidas sneakers, T-shirts and shearling coats worn by Shabazz’s proud subjects, grab your crayons. Here’s your chance to decide what colors you want each of these fashion items to be.
Shabazz says his editor, Craig Cohen of powerHouse Books, came up with the idea. “He explained to me that there was a new market for coloring books and envisioned my book Back in the Days as a perfect book to transform into a coloring book.” Shabazz needed some convincing, but eventually agreed. Now, he says, “The very thought has already created a serious buzz on social media. I have received hundreds of messages from around the globe inquiring about the book, so there is an international audience eager to have copies.” A week after the coloring book’s publication, it’s already Amazon’s #1 hot release in the category of “fashion coloring book” (which is a thing, we’ve now learned). Some of us are hoping to find it in our Christmas stockings.
When Shabazz was shooting the photos that were eventually gathered in the book, he wasn’t interested only in style or fashion. As he has told PDN, “I realized that my life’s mission over these past three decades has been to contribute to the preservation of world history and culture for future generations to see and learn from.”
Rather than simply shooting street photography, Shabazz engaged with his subjects, striving to produce a positive representation of neighborhoods the media usually ignored. And he’s remained committed to his community, mentoring youth (as well as young photographers).
The DJs and young style icons in Back in the Days were expressing their own creativity. It seems appropriate that the new Back in the Days Coloring Book gives fans a way to express their own creativity. Shabazz says, “Personally, I look forward to seeing some of the artistic creations that will come forth.”
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