Contact High will host a conversation with legendary photographers Janette Beckman, Barron Claiborne, Brian Cross and Ernie Paniccioli exploring the creative process and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the imagery that shaped hip-hop.
Location: St. Ann’s Warehouse
Presented by Contact High with support from Mass Appeal and Invictus Black
What role did photographers play in bringing hip-hop and music culture imagery onto the global stage and how was hip-hop’s visual legacy created? Contact High will host a conversation with legendary photographers Janette Beckman, Barron Claiborne, Brian Cross and Ernie Paniccioli exploring the creative process and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the imagery that shaped hip-hop. Co-moderated by writer/curator Vikki Tobak and Young Guru. By celebrating the collective of shooters, pioneering and contemporary, who recognized hip-hop’s importance, we come to understand the documentation of a cultural phenomenon. This is the story of shooters who captured the movement as it evolved from a burgeoning subculture in the late 1970s into the defining culture of today, impacting not just music but politics and social movements around the world.
Hip-hop and rebel cultures have always been about self-definition especially when it comes to visuals and style. For artists, that one iconic pose, press shot or album cover would play a major role in shaping them into icons by any means necessary — skills, style, swagger, bravado and visuals.Through these images –including both celebrated icons of photography and lesser-known images — we come to understand how photographers thought about sequencing, process and their creative collaboration with the artists.
Janette Beckman is a British-born photographer who now lives and works in New York. She began her career at the dawn of punk rock working for music magazines The Face and Melody Maker. She shot bands from The Clash to Boy George as well as three Police album covers.
Moving to NYC in 1983 she was drawn to the underground hip-hop scene and photographed pioneers such as Run DMC, Slick Rick, Salt’n’Pepa, Grand Master Flash and LL Cool J. Beckman has published five books: “Rap, Portraits & Lyrics of a Generation of Black Rockers,” “Made In The UK The Music of Attitude 1977-1983,” “The Breaks, Stylin’ and Profilin’ 1982- 1990,” “El Hoyo Maravilla” and “The MashUp: Hip Hop Photos Remixed by Iconic Graffiti Artists.”
Her work has been shown in galleries worldwide and is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Museum of the City of New York and the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe. She is represented by the Fahey Klein Gallery.
Beckman continues to chronicle sub-cultures of our generation as well as work on shoots for clients such as Levi’s, Dior and Apple.
Barron Claiborne (BC AFRICANUS) was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. He is a self-taught photographer and began taking photographs at the age of 10 after receiving a camera as a gift from his mother, Betty Lou. He works primarily in large format, 8×10 and 4×5. In 1989, he moved to New York City. In 2001, he began working on a project which involved 8×10 polaroids of the Female Form (Venus Aurea), Women (Goddess), Saints (Muurmaidens and Orishas), and the Twins (Double Duplication). The inspiration for his work is both historical, mythological and imaginary. The symbolic imagery represents dreams, stories, and the oral traditions of his Southern American and African ancestry. His work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Interview, among others. He has photos in museums and private collections worldwide.
Brian “B+” Cross is one of the most prominent music photographers working today. He has photographed more than 100 album covers for artists such as Company Flow, Damian Marley, David Axelrod, DJ Shadow, Flying Lotus, Eazy-E, J Dilla, Jurassic 5, Madlib, Mos Def, and Q-Tip. Cross was the Director of Photography for the Academy Award–nominated documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” and has made several feature-length music films and many music videos. His photos have appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vibe, the Fader, and the Wire.
B+ is an assistant professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of California San Diego, and cofounder of Mochilla, a production house whose output includes feature-length music documentaries, music videos, music, and photography. A former student of award-winning author Mike Davis and photographer Allan Sekula, Cross was the photo editor of the music magazine Wax Poetics from 2004 to 2010, and Rap Pages from 1993 to 1998. Cross’s 1993 book on the LA hip-hop scene, “It’s Not About a Salary,” was on “best book of the year” lists for Rolling Stone and NME magazines, and Vibe named it one of the top ten hip-hop books of all time. Cross lives in Los Angeles and his new book “Ghostnotes: Music of the Unplayed”will be published by the University of Texas Press in October 2017.
Author of “Who Shot Ya? Three Decades of Hip Hop Photography,” Ernie Paniccioli first made his foray into hip-hop culture in 1973 when he began capturing the ever present graffiti art dominating New York City. From there, and armed with a 35-millimeter camera, Paniccioli has recorded the entire evolution of hip-hop. Much in the same way Gordon Parks recorded the Civil Rights Movement, or the way James Van Der Zee documented Harlem in the 1920s, Paniccioli met the energy and spirit of the times head on with his picture-making. From Grandmaster Flash at the Roxy (a popular Manhattan nightclub of the late ‘70s and early 1980s), to the athletic moves of the legendary Rock Steady Crew, to the fresh faces of Queen Latifah, Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Eminem, and Lauryn Hill, Paniccioli has been at the forefront documenting the greatest cultural movement since Rock and Roll.
Paniccioli is the recipient of the UNIVERSAL ZULU NATION Human Soul Award and is creator of “THE OTHER SIDE OF HIP HOP” which won the Big Apple Film Festival Best Documentary in 2007. His archive of over 100,000 photographs has been acquired by Cornell University, as part of their Hip-Hop Collection, and he was also inducted into the Hip Hop Hall of Fame. A true renaissance man, Paniccioli is also a painter, public speaker, and historian.
VIKKI TOBAK is an author, journalist, and curator. She is the author of critically acclaimed books CONTACT HIGH: A VISUAL HISTORY OF HIP-HOP (Clarkson Potter/Random House), 2018); ICE COLD: A HIP-HOP JEWELRY HISTORY (Taschen 2022) and The Streets Win (Rizzoli 2023). Her work has appeared in Complex, Rolling Stone, The FADER, ESPN’s The Undefeated, Mass Appeal, Paper, Vibe, i-D, the Detroit News, The Library of Congress and more. Tobak is also the curator of the traveling Contact High exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography, The International Center of Photography, Manarat Al Saadiyat (MAS)in Abu Dhabi and MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture). Tobak and the exhibition were nominated for a Lucie Foundation Award for Curator / Exhibition of the Year. She is a former producer and columnist for CBS, CNN and Bloomberg News. Vikki got her start as a culture editor for Paper magazine before going on to work at Payday Records/Empire Management working with groups including Gang Starr, Jay-Z, Mos Def, Show and AG, Jeru and other hip-hop legends of the Golden Era. She has lectured widely about music photography and contemporary culture at American University, The Schomburg Center, The Kennedy Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
Throughout his illustrious, decorated career, Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton has resoundingly earned his reputation as one of the most renowned recording and mixing engineers in music today, having worked with artists such as Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rick Ross, Drake, T.I., Kanye West and Eminem. Wisened after years of successful endeavors (multi-platinum albums, and multiple Grammy nods) Young Guru has recently been working tirelessly to elevate the discourse of audio engineering philosophy, science and technology, emerging onto the college lecture circuit as one of the subject’s most distinguished and dignified speakers, and further proving why he is one of audio’s most important minds and essential voices. Traveling the country, Guru’s intellect and eloquence have been tapped by a broad variety of impressive venues, garnering him recognition from such media outlets as CNN, Fox News, Billboard and The Village Voice.