Join artist Jamel Shabazz for a tour of his exhibition Jamel Shabazz: Albums at The Gordon Parks Foundation Gallery. The exhibition celebrates the release of a book by the same name, the culminating publication of The Gordon Parks Foundation/Steidl book prize, which Shabazz was awarded in 2022. The exhibition and book feature Shabazz’s work from the 1970s to ’90s as it exists in his archive: small prints thematically grouped and sequenced in traditional family photo albums that function as portable portfolios. The exhibition will include over a dozen of these albums, all shown for the first time.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Shabazz began photographing people he encountered on New York streets in the mid-1970s, creating an archive of cultural shifts and struggles across the city. His camera was also at his side while working as an officer at Rikers Island in the 1980s, where he took portraits of inmates that he later shared with their friends and families. Once Shabazz gained the trust of his subjects, over the course of a few minutes they would collaboratively choreograph the portrait composition, with the street as backdrop. After several interactions, Shabazz took the completed rolls of color film to a one-hour photo shop that would provide two prints of each image: he typically gave one to his sitters, and the second he organized into changing albums to be shown to future subjects. The act of partaking in Shabazz’s photo shoot encouraged self-expression and spoke of self-determination, influence, strength, style, and attitude. The people he met would want their photograph in his albums; appearing there transformed them from seeing to being seen, from audience to tastemakers. His photograph would be of them and for them.