Charlie Ahearn prepares to debut his forthcoming documentary Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer – a study of Jamel Shabazz, the groundbreaking street photographer who captured the genesis of hip-hop in pictures – this Friday at BAM Cinematek. Though some have expressed concerns that this film would mirror Ahearn’s legendary hip-hop feature Wild Style, he assures audiences that that is far from the case in a recent discussion with Mass Appeal:
“’Wild Style’ was specifically made [as] a film that would play to teenagers and that would go out into a movie theater.” Ahearn said, sitting in his Tribeca home office. “And so when I made the Jamel movie, I never was concerned with it’s face.”
“What I did with ‘Wild Style’ is well appreciated in the world, so I’m not looking for credit,” Ahearn says. “I feel like I’ve gotten plenty, and so I’m not looking to Jamel for some kind of ‘Yes, we both have done this.’ It’s true, but I’m about projecting what his life and work is about.”
The documentary is also devoid of the music and other flourishes present in his hip-hop opus. The foremost concern of the film is to present the man behind the shutter and the catalog of works that have sprung from it; Jamel Shabazz discussed his work on The Roots‘ Undun LP in a 2011 interview with Okayplayer. Ahearn references Shabazz’s books “Back In The Days” and “A Time Before Crack”; the film juxtaposes the seminal images of Brooklyn, ghetto blasters, and b-boys posed akimbo with the actual people and places contained in Shabazz’s collections. For Shabazz, the film’s arrival is a double whammy as he also appears in director Cheryl Dunn‘s street photography documentary Everybody Street. The documentary shot over a span of ten years opens this Friday and runs through August 8th. Check the trailer for Charlie Ahearn’s documentary Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer below. Purchase tickets to see the documentary via BAM.org.