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CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop


From East Coast to West Coast, hip-hop music became as much a look and a lifestyle as it was a sound. CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop celebrates the photographers who played a role in bringing hip-hop’s visual culture to center stage. The exhibition, which closes this weekend, takes an inside look at the music and the makers through the most intimate lens: the photographers’ unedited contact sheets.

“The contact sheets really humanize the artist a lot more, especially in a world like hip-hop, where images are often hyper masculine,” said Vikki Tobak, who curated the show. “When you look at the contact sheets, you see a wider array of who they were as people. You see them making their mistakes, and you see the in between moments, and you see them cracking up or smiling.”

In addition to nearly 140 works by 60 photographers, visitors will see over 75 original and unedited contact sheets -from Barron Claiborne’s iconic Notorious B.I.G. portraits and early images of Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West as they first took to the scene, to Janette Beckman’s defining photos of Salt-N-Pepa, and Jamel Shabazz and Gordon Parks documenting of hip-hop culture.

The exhibition also includes an exclusive new documentary short film featuring a selection of CONTACT HIGH’s photographers at work and in conversation. Rare videos, memorabilia, and music are included to complement the photographs and demonstrate how the documentation of a cultural phenomenon impacts politics, culture, and social movements around the world.

Before you leave, make sure to stop by Contact High Records, a pop-up record shop featuring rare vinyl spanning the history of hip-hop. And check out the wild-style mural from Cey Adams, who DnA spoke to back in May.

You can listen to (or read) Greater L.A.’s piece on the show here. More information about the exhibition and visiting Annenberg Space for Photography here.

Closing Saturday, August 25.