In a career that has already spanned over four decades, Shabazz has created a prolific body of work. Hundreds of photos document African American culture and fashion in the 80's. His new book, "The Book of Life" comes out soon, but his must-see work is entitled "Back in the Days." Take a look through this photo essay for good vibes and throwback style inspiration that puts todays Insta-imitators to shame. From classic Nike jackets to Kangol hats and shearling coats, Shabazz documents the looks that - today - are the inspiration for endless searches for lookalike items. More so, however, Shabazz flocks toward an attitude. Beyond the material culture of time and place is the photographers ability to identify an energy that calls to be documented and preserved.
Shabazz lived and photographed in a time of civil struggle. He witnessed, and documented, the evolution of a community and borough over decades. His work captured a vibrancy not only in aesthetic, but in energy. It was a realization in Germany during his military duty that left a teenaged Shabazz invigorated to go back to Brooklyn to begin shooting street photography. Legendary film director Charlie Ahearn made a film in 2013 entitled Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer that celebrated Shabazz's impact on street photography and his encapsulation of a time. You might recognize Ahearn's name from his magnum opus, Wild Style. The film was made and set in 1980's Brooklyn and tells the story of a street artist and Flatbush culture. Both Shabazz and Ahearn use their mediums to capture the essence of a time and place in Brooklyn. Educate yourself on an era and place unlike any other by watching Ahearn's film, Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer, and learn just how far Shabazz's influence reaches.
Words by Katy Hallowell