My Summer Lair Chapter #121: As In Photography As In Life…Follow The Light. So What’s It Like To Follow The Light?
Listening to legendary photographer Jamel Shabazz speak it’s clear he deftly fulfills Jenny Holzer profoundly popular truism: “Use what is dominant in a culture to change it quickly.”
By picking up his camera daily and, in his words, “documenting the world around him”, Jamel is known for the culture he created and influenced as much as that culture influenced him.
Whenever a celebrity perishes there’s a lazy reduction by the media and (worse) by the fans that naturally occurs. We endured this when Prince passed away: it’s difficult to articulate in a meaningful way what Prince contributed to music and ultimately what his legacy is and will continue to be as time slowly unfolds.
Similarly, Jamel Shabazz’s legacy is unique because it is divided into two significant works.
There’s the photographs he’s known for…the photographs have effectively established his platform while simultaneously functioning as icebreakers for him to start significant conversations with his subjects.
Those conversations are his additional legacy…and probably his greatest work. When that sad day comes and he’s no longer with us we’ll have the photos: we’ll always have the photos. But we’ll also always have the ripple effects of those conversations that he initiated because they’ve changed people. What was destroyed in the dark has been restored in the light.
Jamel has heavily invested in people and the ROI for those potent conversations is the changes love has sown. Like Prince’s musical legacy it is difficult to articulate in a meaningful way just it’s so obvious.
We just don’t have artists like this anymore. Conscientious and meticulous with a deep intentionality. As much as it inspiring it’s also distressing because this is how we used to be. Perhaps some time when the pendulum swings back as it often always does this is who we can become again.
As always we are faced with two roads and it remains up to us to take the Robert Frost less traveled road. Because as Jamel Shabazz can testify it makes all the difference.
Host Sammy Younan
Photography by Henry VanderSpek aka Culture Snap Photography
Recorded: Thursday July 18, 2019 at 11:30am
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