Worn in New York by Emily Spivack

Worn in New York by Emily Spivack

Author:Emily Spivack
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Abrams
Published: 2017-11-09T05:00:00+00:00

JANETTE BECKMAN

I was working as a photographer for the music magazine Melody Maker when, in 1982, I heard about this thing called “hip-hop.” The first ever hip-hop tour was coming to London, and I put my hand up to photograph a story about these musicians. I went to the hotel where they were staying, just me and my camera, and I photographed the double-dutch dancers, b-boys, and graffiti artists. I was blown away by the styling, attitude, and poses. People in London didn’t look like that. Later that night, I went to the concert with GrandMixer D.ST, Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, and Afrika Bambaataa. DJs, break-dancers, rappers, and artists all onstage together, crazy and colorful, especially coming after punk, which, by that time, had gotten a little dreary.

That same year, after the story ran in Melody Maker, I went to visit a friend in New York over Christmas. The hip-hop stuff I’d just seen in London was happening all around the city, kids with boom boxes on their shoulders or break-dancing outside subway entrances. In New York, it’s cold, but the sun’s shining and people are selling hoop earrings and knock-off Gucci bags on the street. It was so exotic coming from London, where it rains all the time. After that, I never left.

I hadn’t been in New York too long when another British magazine I’d been working for, The Face, called. “There’s this group, Run-D.M.C. . . . you’ve never heard of them, but let’s find out about them.” So they gave me a phone number. It turned out to be Jam Master Jay’s mom. Jay told me to meet him by the Hollis train station. I went up there with my Hasselblad camera and photographed Run-D.M.C. hanging out with their friends on their street.

I started getting jobs with Def Jam. They had this really scruffy office not too far from my apartment. I remember walking in to show them my photos. Lyor Cohen was sitting at his desk with a cigar in his mouth and his feet up on the desk, shouting into the phone, something like, “$100,000! Run-D.M.C.!” I asked him to look at my portfolio. He told me, “Ah, yeah yeah yeah, OK. Do press pictures for LL Cool J.”

Because I was British and a woman, everybody was super nice to me. They were curious about what I was doing in New York and why I was interested in them. When I’d photograph Salt-N-Pepa or Leaders of the New School, they’d ask me questions, I’d ask them questions, and we’d collaborate. In retrospect, it was a huge deal to be allowed into that world, to, say, photograph Afrika Bambaataa in the Bronx. I think it really helped to be a white woman from another country. If I’d been a white American guy, I wouldn’t have been able to get the pictures I got. I was like a stranger in a strange land.

At the time, I was living on Franklin Street in Tribeca, and there was nothing down there.



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