Psychobabble: Jamel Shabazz
A Time Before Instagram
Before Instagram, before iPhones, before selfies, and before everyone had a camera, photographer and Brooklyn native, Jamel Shabazz, captured a seminal time in New York hip-hop that helped shape the culture.
His classic monographs Back in the Days and A Time Before Crack spread the history and aesthetics of MCing, DJing, graffiti, and breakdancing around the globe. His work continues to present and preserve the beauty of Black Culture in an authentic way that artists of all ilks still struggle to emulate.
There’s no need to front, I’m a fan.
Top Five Photographers of all Time:
5. Miguel Rio Branco
4. Saul Leiter
3. Antoine D’Agata
2. Bruce Davidson
GOAT: Jamel Shabazz
This is PSYCHOBABBLE, a pseudo-psychoanalysis with no scientific merit, done strictly for entertainment purposes.
JOHN LEE FISHER: Answer the following questions and tell me the first thought that pops into your head. You’re walking through the forest, is it daytime or nighttime?
JAMEL SHABAZZ: Daytime. A vast and unexplored universe.
So there’s nothing that you’re really afraid of.
JAMEL: Thus far I have seen the world as an exciting adventure and I am thankful to have traveled to so many places near and far.
You come to an animal that’s stuck in a trap. What kind of animal is it and do you stop and help it or do you keep going?
A young bald eagle. Yes, I would stop and help it.
Connecting the bald eagle to America and the American dream and the fact that you said that it was young, maybe you see your purpose in life as helping the youth to soar and reach their full potential.
Yes, I do see young people as endangered, especially the poor and those of color around the globe. Unlimited potential is there, however, world governments need to do their part. It has always been my desire to see our youth soar, despite the hardships and traps.
You come to a cup. It can be made out of any type of material. What type of material is it made out of?
So you’re not materialistic, but you value beauty and strength.
No, I’m not materialistic at all.
Is it half empty or half full?
What’s inside of it?
Ginger mint tea.
I connect tea as well as ginger and mint with peace and tranquility — enlightenment. So maybe you’re looking for some deeper meaning and purpose in life. You want to exchange ideas and grow through interactions with others, which are all very idealistic goals.
Jade, ginger, and mint represent good health and inner peace. I am always looking for a deeper meaning to both life and my personal journey. The craft in which I have been given has provided me with countless opportunities to interact with a wide range of people.
You said the cup was half empty, though, so maybe through your travels you have come to realize that the world isn’t fundamentally a good place.
I don’t see myself as a pessimist. I am more a realist. Sadly, the world today is not a good place and I really don’t see things getting any better.
I do have visions of a new and better world, but only in my dreams and inner thoughts.
The work I have been blessed to create serves as a form of visual medicine in a world that is celebrating and ingesting visual poison and negative imagery daily. It is my hope that some youth or adults alike might see the camera — photography — as another career option and embrace it based on the path I have been on.
You come to an object. It can be anything in the universe you want it to be. What is it?
A straight path to a better world.
Pretty self explanatory. There seems to be a theme to your answers.
Making the world a better place is important to me because I have children who I would like to see grow into a world better than the one I grew up in. In addition, it is an assignment that I have been given. I want to inspire the youth because they hold the keys to tomorrow.
You come to a body of water. It can be any type of body of water. What type of body of water is it
It’s the Pacific Ocean.
How do you get past it?
By taking a cruise ship to Vietnam.
You said that the body of water was an ocean — specifically the Pacific Ocean — so you have a very large sexual appetite and you said that you would get past it by taking a cruise ship to Vietnam so maybe — I don’t know — you like Asian women or maybe you see the Pacific Ocean and S.E. Asia as a beautiful, romantic, or erotic part of the world.
My sexual appetite is moderate. I have a love for refined women in general, there is no secret fantasy for Asian women. The Pacific Ocean and South East Asia represents a conduit that took thousands upon thousands of young men to war during the 1960's and 70's. I often think about all the lives that were lost, both from this country, but just as importantly the people of Vietnam who are still suffering today.
It was the ships that carried these men to war, along with the warships that used weapons of mass destruction to carry out years of bombing operations that devastated that beautiful land and killed and maimed people. For me to travel via the Pacific Ocean on the same route that took those before me will allow me time to reflect. By entering Vietnam I can see a country and people who are still standing after hundreds of years of war and suffering. I can also reflect and write on the men from my community that were drafted and placed in that often horrible situation in a time of civil unrest in America — many didn’t return, others were changed forever.
An image that Jamel Shabazz’s father created during his time in the United States Navy.
You come to a wall. How many feet tall is the wall?
Six feet tall.
Is it hard to get over or easy?
The wall is hard to get over.
Once you get over it, what do you see?
A bright, righteous world where people of all cultures interact with each other in an atmosphere of peace and harmony.
Six feet isn’t very tall, but you said that it’s hard to get over. So maybe you feel like you haven’t had many trials and tribulations in your life or you’re a very grateful person and have experienced a lot of trials and tribulations that most people would find difficult, but you just see them as small things to overcome in order to reach your ultimate goal.
I have had numerous trials and tribulations during the course of my life. Nothing has ever come easy. I was taught to meet and overcome all obstacles in my path. So, yes, I am very grateful for all the blessings afforded to me. I give thanks everyday. Trials purify, so I embrace everything that happens to me as a life lesson and with each new lesson I am able to move forward with greater knowledge, wisdom, and understanding to achieve my objective.
Unfortunately, I will not see (my dream) world in my lifetime, but hopefully my work and vision will carry on in my absence and inspire the next generation.
Photographer Jamel Shabazz is currently finalizing a new monograph entitled Pieces of a Man, a thirty-five year retrospective consisting of 360 color and black-and-white images, which will be released in November of this year.