via PowerHouse Books
Yesterday I attended the premiere of Jamel Shabazz: Street Photographer at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinemaFest. Charlie Ahearn of Wild Style directed the documentary while shadowing the photographer for 7 years. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Shabazz’s for some time and own Back in the Days and Seconds of My Life. His books contain the most stunning images of everyday (primarily) New Yorkers from the 1980s through the 2000s, with an emphasis of the black and brown people of Brooklyn and Harlem. Whether someone was wearing a mesh tank and running shorts or freshly pressed, straight-legged Lee’s with suede Pumas and a Kangol, each subject maintains a stance with the same polished confidence of a high-paid model.
Like the contemporary painter Kehinde Wiley, Shabazz captures people in a manner that suggests a grander scale than the world they live in. While the sitters may not come from the most affluent of backgrounds, their carriage and the way they wear their garments punctuates the dignity and respect the photographer stresses that he tries to convey in his work.
I’m not sure when there will be another opportunity to view the film, but there will be a launch party on July 12th at the powerHOUSE Arena (the event space of publisher powerHOUSE Books) celebrating Shabazz’s latest book, Back in the Days: Remix.
via Google Creative Commons
In the season 1 episode of The Cosby Show entitled “The Shirt Story”, Theo attempts to use dress to impress a girl. He purchases a a shirt that his father deems overpriced and insists that he return to the store. Denise, his fashion forward sister, offers to construct a knockoff at a fraction of the price. When the end result resembles something akin to a silk straightjacket, Theo suffers a sartorially induced meltdown. In Fashion and Its Social Agendas, Diana Crane writes that clothes are intended to be worn in a public space, therefore we end up dressing for others moreso than for ourselves. When Theo’s date accidentally sees him in Denise’s creation she and her friend are thrilled that it resembles a design by the more relevant Ichi Amarata.
Though the designers are fictitious, the message of the episode speaks to anxiety associated with the purchase of a particular garment and how acquiring it has the power to make life at that specific moment absolutely perfect. For me it was Z. Cavaricci pants in the fall of 1990. My acute obsession for the Italian label that produced MC Hammer style pants was fleeting. By the spring I found them exaggerated and passé.
The desire to have that piece of material culture that we’re convinced will make our lives better never fades. As participants in a consumer-driven society, we’re hyperaware of the messages emitted from each one of our purchases. While the feeling remains, the Z. Cavariccis have been replaced with the PS 1.