In the 1980s, Jamel Shabazz roamed the streets of his native New York to photograph young black men he met. Twenty years later, the photographer realized that these optimistic and carefree images actually told of a bygone era, before the ravages of the crack epidemic and the war on drugs. In 2005, he published his first book on this subject. Crack once beforerecently redesigned and re-released on powerHouse.
“Flying Girls”. Midtown. About 1985. | Jamel Shabazz
“The purpose of this project was primarily to give the current generation an idea of life in New York before the crack epidemic hit the city. Many young people born in the 1990s and 2000s really had no idea what life was like back then. That’s why I wanted to shed light on a hot topic. The women in this photo are all local high school girls that I have befriended and mentored. Back then, women prided themselves on being feminine and different in their behavior. In the 1980s, it was common to see women wearing high heels to high school. Even today, I am close friends with each of them.”
“For this book, which began in January 2021, I selected images from my extensive archive that directly relate to the subject. In the creative process, I chose images of former crack dealers or those directly affected by the epidemic. There are no captions to protect their identity, as it was not my intention to expose or harm anyone.”
“The project has changed dramatically over time. My original concept was to include only twenty new images and new text from the previous book. But the publisher informed me that they no longer had the original photos from the first printing, so we had to start all over again.”
“Most of the photographs in the book were taken with a Canon AE 1.35 mm camera. I used a combination of color and black and white film. The photos were taken mostly in Brooklyn and Manhattan from 1980 to 1986. Like this 1982 photo of downtown Brooklyn. “I like it because it’s like, for me, a lot of women in New York have been arrested and jailed.”
“Brothers”. | Jamel Shabazz
“My work has been well received by diverse audiences both in this country and in many countries outside of the United States. The most enthusiastic are those who appear in my work and come to show these images to their children. However, there were some disappointments as the quality of the first version of the book – now hard to find – was much better in terms of the quality of the paper used and the vibrancy of the colours.
“Manchild”. | Jamel Shabazz
“This photo was taken in 1981 at a subway station in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. To me, it represents a young child caught in the middle of an uncertain world. You can see the fear in his eyes and the desire to escape from his current environment. Unfortunately, I will never see him again. With rare exceptions, I know most of the stories behind every person featured. All were victims of crack sales or use. Some young men have spent more than three decades in prison for drug dealing and drug dealing. Unfortunately, there are a number of photos from the 1980’s and much of the 1990’s of people who became addicted and endured very difficult trials. The good news is that everyone who was addicted back then made a full recovery, but is now dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. accompanying this destructive lifestyle.
“Erol”. Brooklyn, in 1980. | Jamel Shabazz
“Errol was a close friend of the miners who were brutally murdered in the 1980s. He started out as an aspiring photographer in my neighborhood, but put the camera down to become a drug dealer. I think of my role back then as almost chemistry. I have the ability to freeze time. was