Since the age of 15, African-American photographer Jamel Shabazz has been documenting life on the streets of New York, capturing the men, women and children who call it home. Known best for his street portraits taken during the Eighties when hip-hop fashion became popular, his latest exhibition Eyes on The Streets shares more than 150 images from the last 40 years.
Often found photographing New York’s outer boroughs such as Harlem, Fort Greene, Flatbush, Manhattan’s Lower East Side and The Bronx, his photos depict a mixture of styles and cultures. While fashion portraiture and street photography are what catapulted him into the spotlight, he started his career documenting a darker side of New York where alcoholism, addiction and prostitution were prevalent in his work.
Jamel's father, who was also a photographer, encouraged him to look for the joy of life when he was out shooting in order to find a balance between light and dark. He started documenting the black community with a completely different approach, capturing their smiling faces, vibrant outfits and infectious laughs as he navigated his way around the streets.
Much of Jamel’s work is about community and collectivity, his camera operates as an impartial observer and he is by no means fixated on just capturing black people. In his work, everyone gets the same exposure regardless of race, gender or background.
For more than 20 years, Jamel worked at Rikers Island, New York’s main correctional facility, and during this time he photographed both the inmates and fellow officers. Many of these photos will now appear in his latest exhibition at the Bronx Museum of the Arts alongside photos of dapper B-boys, Muslim men and women in their finest, and couples lost in a moment.
All the images that feature in Jamel Shabazz: Eyes on the Street have been taken between 1980 and 2020 in just 5 boroughs of New York. No stranger to solo exhibitions, Shabazz has taken had over two dozen in the last 10 years including Men of Honor, A Time Before Crack, Pieces of Man and Represent, just to name a few.
As someone who has been credited as one of New York’s best artists, Jamel's exhibition at The Bronx Museum gives fans and photography lovers an opportunity to view a body of work that shows the ever-changing faces of New York.
The exhibition is on until 06 September 2022 and admission to the Bronx Museum of Arts is free. To find out more information about opening times, how to get there and what else is on, head to the Bronx Museum website (opens in new tab).