For all of our readers who either grew up in the 1980’s in New York City and witnessed or participated in the beginnings of hip-hop as a culture, or for those that are younger and just love the look and feel of that whole generation, a special week-long treat awaits you this Friday with the theatrical premiere of Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer, the definitive portrait of Brooklyn-born and bred Jamel Shabazz.

For non-enthusiasts, the photographer is known for his book Back in the Days, which when published in 2005 brought Shabazz’s portraits of New York urban street culture and intimate portraits of hip-hop culture pioneers to the international community, making him the superstar at large that he already was locally.

From Friday, August 2nd through Thursday, August 8th, BAMcinématek presents the US theatrical premiere of veteran filmmaker Charlie Ahearn’s Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer, featuring an opening night Q&A with Ahearn, Jamel Shabazz, and legendary hip-hop innovator Fab 5 Freddy, and a Saturday night Q&A with Ahearn, hip-hop multi-hyphenate Bobbito Garcia, and artist David “Chino” Villorente, who has designed a limited edition poster for the documentary.

Shabazz’s documentarian is also an expert on the culture as director Ahearn also directed the first ever hip-hop feature film Wild Style, a must have documentary for any collector or enthusiast of hip-hop and 80’s culture.

The press release for the event gives even more info:

In the infancy of hip-hop, Shabazz documented the pioneers of music and style who launched an enduring worldwide phenomenon, and Ahearn pays tribute to both Shabazz and his subjects, those who defined hip-hop before it had a definition. Beyond simply vintage shots of kids rocking Puma Suedes, Kangols, and pinstriped Jordaches in Times Square and Fort Greene Park, Shabazz’s photographs have hundreds of stories behind them. Ahearn gives voices to these images with dozens of interviews with Shabazz himself, graffiti pioneer and hip-hop historian Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Brathwaite, legendary rapper KRS-One, and others.

After picking up a camera for the first time at age 15, Shabazz took photos of his friends and family before descending on the streets of New York City, drawing inspiration from historic photographers and documentarians like James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks, Leonard Freed, Robert Capa, Chester Higgins Jr., and Eli Reed. In addition to his celebrated book Back in the Days, Shabazz has released two other monographs—The Last Sunday in June and A Time Before Crack—and has exhibited his work at many acclaimed New York institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, and Bronx Museum of the Arts, and many museums and galleries worldwide.

Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer had its world premiere in 2011 to a standing-room-only crowd at BAMcinemaFest, BAM’s annual showcase of the best in American independent cinema. Since its festival premiere, the film has been expanded to 81 minutes for its theatrical release.

Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer screens Friday, August 2—Thursday, August 8 at 4:30, 7, 9:30pm with additional 2pm matinees Friday—Sunday.

After premiering the film in Brooklyn, Ahearn will appear in person at screenings nationwide, in Portland (Sep 18), Seattle (Sep 19), San Francisco (Sep 21) and more theaters to be announced.


The film is released through Cinema Conservancy, the releasing program of Artists Public Domain, a New York-based non-profit production and distribution company. Cinema Conservancy helps to ensure the legacy and public availability of crucial works of American Independent cinema. Previous Cinema Conservancy releases include Ivan Dixon’s Nothing But a Man (1964), Little Fugitive and The Color Wheel. APD’s recent productions include Towheads, Another Earth, and The Forgiveness of Blood.

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