Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop

March 8, 2020


Produced and originated at the Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles’s preeminent destination for photography, “CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop” is a journey through nearly four decades of photography, documenting a movement that impacted music, politics, race relations, fashion, and the culture at large. Curated by Vikki Tobak, based on the bestselling book of the same name, and with creative direction by Fab 5 Freddy, the exhibition includes nearly 150 works from 60 photographers, including Janette Beckman, Jamel Shabazz, and Gordon Parks.

© Jamil GS, Jay-Z’s First Photo Shoot, New York City, 1995.

This expanded “CONTACT HIGH” exhibition, currently on view at International Center of Photography in New York, includes nearly 10 new works and more than 75 unedited contact sheets from Barron Claiborne’s iconic Notorious B.I.G. portraits to early images of Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West. It will also display the Dapper Dan jacket made for Rakim and the crown worn by theNotorious B.I.G.

© Jorge Peniche, Tyler, the Creator, Los Angeles, 2011.

“CONTACT HIGH celebrates a musical genre that speaks truth to power and the photographers who played a critical role in bringing hip-hop’s visual culture to the global stage. It provides a rare, inside look at the work of hip-hop photographers through their unedited contact sheets,” said Tobak

“ICP is thrilled to open our new space on Manhattan’s Lower East Side with CONTACT HIGH and bring this important work to a New York City audience. As relevant now as when they were made, the images in this exhibition reveal complex and nuanced negotiations of self-presentation—foreshadowing our own selfie age— within and without the confines and stereotypes of the hip-hop scene,” said Mark Lubell, ICP’s Executive Director.

© Ricky Powell, New York Street Culture, New York City, 1980s and 90s.

“The overwhelming number of visitors in the Los Angeles region to CONTACT HIGH was a testament to the importance and impact of these images,” said Wallis Annenberg, president and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation. “The role these photographers played in shaping hip-hop culture and beyond is incredible. It’s only right that our most popular exhibit to-date come to New York City, the birthplace of hip-hop.”

© Al Pereira, Queen Latifah on the set of Fly Girl, New York City, 1991.

The exhibition also includes a documentary short film featuring “CONTACT HIGH” photographers at work and in conversation, including Barron Claiborne, Brian “B+” Cross, Eric Coleman, Estevan Oriol, Jorge Peniche, Jamel Shabazz, Janette Beckman, Joe Conzo, Jack McKain, Dana Scruggs, and Danny Clinch. The film is produced by the Annenberg Foundation and Radical Media.

During the run of the exhibition, Tobak and several photographers featured in CONTACT HIGH are participating in public programs and other events for students, museumgoers, ICP members, and the general public.

Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop

January 25– May 18, 2020
International Center of Photography
79 Essex Street
New York, NY 10002


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