SINCE THE LATE 1970S, New York photographer Jamel Shabazz has been cataloging his iconic street portraits in thematic albums. Housing small prints, numerous albums form a visual archive across nearly half a century documenting the city’s cultural shifts, sociopolitical landscape, and evolving style. The treasure trove will soon be published in book form.

Shabazz is the 2022 recipient of The Gordon Parks Foundation/Steidl Book Prize. The foundation and the German publisher announced the news this morning. Established in 2020, the award provides a publishing opportunity for an artist whose practice is informed by and extends the legacy of Gordon Parks.

“Jamel is an incredible talent whose work has made an indelible contribution to the tradition of street photography,” Peter W. Kunhardt Jr., executive director of The Gordon Parks Foundation said in a statement. “Through a career spent capturing the lived experience of New York City communities, Jamel has continued Gordon Parks’s life’s work of using photography to reveal our shared humanity.”

“Through a career spent capturing the lived experience of New York City communities, Jamel [Shabazz] has continued Gordon Parks’s life’s work of using photography to reveal our shared humanity.”
— Peter W. Kunhardt Jr., Executive Director of The Gordon Parks Foundation

LaToya Ruby Frazier was the inaugural recipient of the The Gordon Parks Foundation/Steidl Book Prize in 2020. Her book focuses on photographs of the water crisis in Flint, Mich. “LaToya Ruby Frazer: Flint Is Family In Three Acts” is coming soon, coinciding with an exhibition of the same body of work that opens April 13 at The Gordon Parks Foundation in Pleasantville, N.Y.

Featuring photographs dating from the 1970s to 1990s, “Jamel Shabazz: Albums” will preserve the format of the artist’s family-style photo albums. The volume will showcase selections from more than a dozen albums, as well as individual photographs. The images were taken throughout New York City, in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Manhattan neighborhoods of Harlem and the West Village. Photographs of people incarcerated at Rikers Island, that Shabazz made while he was employed as an officer there in the 1980s, are also included. Many of the images published in the book will be seen publicly for the first time.

BORN AND RAISED IN BROOKLYN, N.Y., Shabazz was exposed to photography at an early age. His father was a photographer so he grew up surrounded by images. He began taking his own in junior high school, photographing his friends and classmates. His childhood passion turned into a lifelong career inspired by Parks, James Van Der Zee, and Leonard Freed.

Always mindful of the street as a stage for self-presentation, Shabazz asks his subjects for permission before taking their pictures out of a desire to portray them in their best light, with honor and dignity, both as individuals and as members of their communities.

In an interview with Michaela Angela Davis published in Aperture in 2016, Shabazz described himself as a conscious Black artist and spoke about the influences of Parks and Freed.

    On Leonard Freed: My father had this very unique book, “Black in White America” (1968) by Leonard Freed, which would become a fixture on our coffee table. That one book provided me with a broader view of black people outside of my local community. I not only saw intriguing images of black people, but I also got the chance to read many stories of injustice and fortitude. Black in White America was instrumental in helping me better understand the climate of America at the time, as the civil rights movement was on the rise in the midst of racial and social unrest. I can honestly say that Freed’s book changed my life, inspired my vision and love for my people. It also helped me to better understand my higher calling in life, which is to continue to document our history and culture in hopes that young people can draw inspiration from my work.

    On Gordon Parks: I revisited the work and writings of Gordon Parks to better understand how to navigate in this new and uncharted area. Gordon had many challenges, but he persevered and let his work speak for itself. I was determined to create images that represented various aspects of communities and people that are often not properly represented or included in the larger narrative. Today like never before, I feel a great sense of urgency to be out on the front lines addressing issues that we face not only as a people, but also as a global community.

Forthcoming in fall 2022, “Jamel Shabazz: Albums” is edited by Michal Raz-Russo, programs director at The Gordon Parks Foundation, and will feature essay contributions by Deborah Willis, Nelson George, and Leslie Wilson, among others.

“Being selected to receive the Gordon Parks Foundation/Stedil Book Prize is truly one of the highlights of my photographic journey,” Shabazz said in a statement. “As a recipient of this prestigious award and as an artist committed to photography, my aim is to uphold the principles that Gordon Parks stood for; always remembering his words, ‘The subject matter is so much more important than the photographer.’” CT

 

IMAGE: Top right, Portrait of Jamel Shabazz. | Photo by Mike McCoy

 

FIND MORE about Jamel Shabazz on his website and Instagram

FIND MORE “Jamel Shabazz: Eyes on the Street” is on view at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, April 6-Sept. 4, 2022

 

READ MORE Earlier this month, Jamel Shabazz answered 21 Questions posed by Curbed

READ MORE Last year, Tanisha C. Ford published “Why Jamel Shabazz Is New York’s Most Vital Street Photographer” on Aperture

 


Numerous albums compiled by Jamel Shabazz form a visual archive across half a century documenting New York City’s cultural shifts, sociopolitical landscape, and evolving style. | © Jamel Shabazz, Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

 


Scheduled to be published in fall 2022 as a result of The Gordon Parks Foundation/Steidl Book Prize, “Jamel Shabazz: Albums” will preserve the format of the artist’s family-style photo albums. | © Jamel Shabazz, Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

BOOKSHELF
Published as a result of The Gordon Parks Foundation/Steidl Book Prize, “Jamel Shabazz: Albums” is expected in fall 2022. Forthcoming in April, “A Time Before Crack” draws on the archive of Jamel Shabazz, featuring images from the 1970s and 80s. “Back in the Days” (2001) collects iconic hip hop portraits by Shabazz spanning 1980 to 1989, before the culture became a worldwide phenomenon. “LaToya Ruby Frazier: Flint Is Family In Three Acts” is expected in the coming months. The work of LaToya Ruby Frazier is explored in the seminal volume “LaToya Ruby Frazier: The Notion of Family,” as well as “LaToya Ruby Frazier: And from the Coaltips a Tree Will Rise” and “LaToya Ruby Frazier: The Last Cruze.”

 

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