A legendary New York photographer, Jamel Shabazz has created portraits of the city’s communities for over forty years. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Shabazz began photographing people he encountered on New York streets in the late 1970s, creating an archive of cultural shifts and struggles across the city. His portraits underscore the street as a space for self-presentation, whether through fashion or pose. In every instance Shabazz aims, in his words, to represent individuals and communities with “honor and dignity.” Jamel Shabazz: Albums—winner of the 2022 Gordon Parks Foundation/Steidl Book Prize—presents, for the first time, Shabazz’s work from the 1970s–90s as it exists in his archive: small prints thematically grouped and sequenced in traditional family photo albums that functioned as portable portfolios.
Shabazz obtained his first camera in the mid-1970s and immediately began making portraits in Brooklyn, Queens, the West Village, and Harlem. His camera was also at his side while he worked as an officer at Rikers Island in the 1980s, where he made portraits of inmates that he later shared with their friends and family. Shabazz took his rolls of color film to be processed at a one-hour photo shop that provided two copies of each print. Shabazz typically shared one with his sitters, and the second he organized into changing, thematic albums that function as portfolios to be shared with future sitters. The book features selections from over a dozen albums, many never-before-seen, as well as individual photographs spanning the 1970s–90s. Included among these is a selection of his earliest photographs as well as images taken inside Rikers Island. Accompanied by scholarly essays that situate Shabazz’s work within the broader history of street photography, Jamel Shabazz: Albums celebrates this influential body of work.
ABOUT JAMEL SHABAZZ
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Jamel Shabazz picked up his first camera at the age of fifteen and began documenting his communities, inspired by the work of photographers such as Leonard Freed, James Van Der Zee, and Gordon Parks. His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally, including exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among others. These exhibitions have been accompanied by several celebrated publications including Back in the Days (2001) and A Time Before Crack (2005). Shabazz has worked as a teaching artist in institutions ranging from the International Center of Photography to the Bronx Museum’s Teen Council youth program. Shabazz was honored at the 2018 Gordon Parks Foundation Awards.