The Rise of The Hip Hop Photographer

Image by Drew Graham

Enter the Age of Hip Hop Photography.

Instagram accounts that revolve around the art of photography, but simultaneously accentuate an extraordinarily cool, streetwise, connected or lavish lifestyle are blending the art of photography with the life of the photographer in ways that we’ve never seen before in the medium, but are highly reminiscent of what we’ve seen in hip hop. The closest we had were the Richard Avedon and David LaChapelle types who became known in equal amounts for their style and access to celebrities. Still, their own personal lives were not nearly as on-display as today’s photographers, nor was their success and access used in such outwardly seductive, branded, attention-grabbing ways. Their fabulous lifestyle felt like the result of all the hard work, not the other way around.

Instagram feed of Simone Bramante
Photo by Luis Amal

“Make an appointment, schedule an interview
Because you know what Big Man’s about to do
50 grand on the Technic at the right peak
Brothers wanna hear the words Big Man speak.” — Christopher Wallace, demo tape, 1991.

Laying preemptive claim to the trappings of success is a standard of hip hop. Turn back the clock to any early demo tape of any unsigned artist and you’ll witness a host of self-fulfilling prophecies of success. It’s become its own formula: act like a massive success to gain an audience that makes you a massive success.

Strong Insta Game
Photo by Andy Yeung
Yick Cheong building in Hong Kong
Insta feed of Ryan Miller

“I made the change from common thief, to up close and personal with Robin Leach.” — Biggy

It’s tempting to dismiss the work simply on the basis of how trendy and repetitive it is, but there seems to be something deeper, more interesting and even, to me, very gratifying just in what Hip Hop Photography is doing for young artists — driving them to document their own stories, discover their own talents, find new revenue models and, most importantly, getting to go see parts of the world they never would have otherwise.

I’m just a boy, standing behind this camera, asking it to love me. Top Writer on Photography, Professor of photojournalism, Leica Akademie Instructor. ♥ Tacos.

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