Photo exhibit celebrates 50 years of hip-hop

Before they achieved worldwide fame, hip-hop legends Salt-N-Pepa visited British photographer Janette Beckman on the Lower East Side in 1986.

Beckman photographed the group walking around the neighborhood she lived in at the time.

They had yet to be signed to a record label, but were on the verge of stardom.

What You Need To Know

  • Hip-Hop: Conscious, Unconscious is a new photo exhibition at Fotografiska in Gramercy, Manhattan
  • There are more than 200 photographs from well-known photographers such as Martha Cooper, Janette Beckman, Joe Conzo, Danny Clinch, Charlie Ahearn, Ernie Paniccioli and many others
  • The exhibition features images dated from 1972 to 2022
  • Among the themes in the exhibition, it highlights the role of women in hip-hop with more than 20 female pioneers

“It’s so cool there’s no hair, no makeup, no managers, no art directors, it’s just me and them, having fun on a hot summers day in New York,” said Beckman, who went on to do photography and album covers for Salt-N-Pepa and many other hip-hop stars.

Her photographs are on display at Fotografiska New York in Gramercy as part of a celebration of 50 years of hip-hop called Hip-Hop: Conscious, Unconscious.

Beckman said the show features many photographers she has become friends with over the years, including Martha Cooper and Joe Conzo.

“It’s just nice to see all of us and our work displayed so beautifully in this really comprehensive show,” said Beckman.

There are more than 200 photos in the show, curated by Sacha Jenkins and Sally Berman, dated from 1972 to the present day.

They chronicle hip-hop’s rise from the streets of the Bronx in the early 70s to a culture and movement with worldwide impact. There’s the break dancing, graffiti, MCs and DJs.

Longtime fans will recognize Doug E. Fresh, Grand Master Flash, DJ Kool Herc, Fab 5 Freddy, Beastie Boys, Run-DMC and Public Enemy, Jay Z and the Notorious B.I.G.

There’s a musical soundtrack that takes visitors through East Coast, West Coast, the South, old school and the newest stars of hip-hop.

Janette Beckman said visitors don’t have to be a hip-hop fan to appreciate the photography in the show and to take a look back at an art form born right here in the five boroughs.

“It’s really history and hopefully kids come and schools because it tells a story of the last 50 years,” said Beckman.

The exhibition runs through May 21.

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