Life is all about timing and lighting - and for the photographers who had the sense to document the original greats of hip-hop, they were blessed with both. It is not often an earth-shaking music genre is created - and even rarer to have the visual proof of it, making a new exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography (ASP) in Los Angeles, even more exciting.
Throughout the summer until August 18, Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop will be showcasing the photographers who played a critical role in bringing hip-hop’s visual culture to the global stage, as told through their most intimate diaries: their unedited contact sheets.
Curated by Vikki Tobak, and based on the bestselling book of the same name, the exhibit's creative director is the legendary Fab 5 Freddy. Contact High includes nearly 140 works from 60 photographers, with over 75 original and unedited contact sheets—from Barron Claiborne’s iconic Notorious B.I.G. portraits and early images of Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West as they first took to the scene, to Janette Beckman’s defining photos of Salt-N-Pepa, and Jamel Shabazz and Gordon Parks documenting hip-hop culture.
While some of the pictures seem familiar - cleaned up versions appeared in magazines around the world - the exhibit allows visitors to see the entire collection of pictures taken during these legendary photo shoots.
The exhibit also includes a documentary short film – produced by the Annenberg Foundation and Radical Media – featuring a selection of Contact High’s photographers at work and in conversation, including Barron Claiborne, Brian “B+” Cross, Eric Coleman, Estevan Oriol, Jorge Peniche, Jamel Shabazz, Janette Beckman, Joe Conzo, Jack McKain, Dana Scruggs, and Danny Clinch.