The influential New York photographer Jamel Shabazz has created portraits of the city’s communities for over 40 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.”
This book—awarded the Gordon Parks Foundation / Steidl Book Prize—presents, for the first time, 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. Shabazz began making portraits in the mid-1970s in Brooklyn, Queens, the West Village and Harlem. 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.
Shabazz had his rolls of color film processed at a one-hour photo shop that provided two copies of each print: he typically gave one to his sitters, and the second he organized into changing albums to be shown to future subjects. This book features selections from over a dozen albums, many never-before-seen, and includes his earliest photographs as well as images taken inside Rikers Island, all accompanied by essays that situate Shabazz’s work within the broader history of photography.
Series edited by Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr.
Edited by Michal Raz-Russo
2022 Recipient of The Gordon Parks Foundation / Steidl Book Prize
Co-published with The Gordon Parks Foundation
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Jamel Shabazz picked up his first camera at the age of 15 and began documenting his communities, inspired by photographers such as Leonard Freed, James Van Der Zee and Gordon Parks. His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including those at the Brooklyn Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Among Shabazz’s publications are Back in the Days (2001) and A Time Before Crack (2005). He has worked as a teaching artist at institutions such as the International Center of Photography and the Bronx Museum’s Teen Council youth program, and was honored at the 2018 Gordon Parks Foundation Awards.