“May you live in interesting times,” goes the apocryphal backhanded curse, and 1980s New York was all sorts of interesting. It was the decade of the crack epidemic, soaring crime rates and the social spending cuts of Reaganomics, but the ’80s also saw the explosion of hip-hop as New York became the undisputed epicentre of youth culture.
When Jamel Shabazz took his first documentary pictures of the city and its people at the start of the decade, the 20-year-old already had 5 years’ photography experience under his belt and entered into what would become an open-ended project with his finger on the pulse as well as the camera shutter. Influenced by artists such as Robert Capa, Leonard Freed, James Van Der Zee and Gordon Parks, Shabazz shared their interest in New York’s African American communities, which felt the social ills most keenly, yet were also the source of so much creativity in music, fashion and art. Reflections from the ’80s is a selection of Shabazz’s work from the period, and is being exhibited by Hardhitta Gallery on Limburger Strasse, Cologne, from 7 to 28 March.