Meet the 3 Photographers Shaping the Public Image of Hip-Hop

“I wanna change the way you think about Hip-Hop and the way you think about urban culture,” says Atlanta-based photographer Cam Kirk. “I wanna bottle it up and show the world that this is just as much of an art form as any other thing.”

Kirk may be the most poetic about his vision, but he isn’t the only one who believes that Hip-Hop should be consumed in both audio and visual forms – and that’s how he found himself co-hosting a bespoke gallery exhibit with fellow Hip-Hop photographers Gunner Stahl and Imran Ciesay (Places + Faces) at Art Basel in December.

In collaboration with Billboard and 1800 Tequila, the three photographers launched the “In Focus” gallery to showcase how their work gives fans unparalleled access to the people who define the culture of Hip-Hop, and to vouch for Hip-Hop photography’s inclusion in the larger landscape of art.

Although they share the same genre, the photographers each bring a unique twist to their work product. Kirk, the son of a photographer, is perhaps the most polished of the three, relying on a DSLR and traditional portrait elements to add a touch of refinement to his subject matter. In addition to the “In Focus” gallery at Basel, Kirk’s pro aesthetic was on display across Miami in a billboard exhibit that included a rare and iconic shot of the Migos.

Stahl and Ciesay, on the other hand, rely on old-school film and “point and shoot” cameras to cultivate a raw look.

Stahl, an Atlanta native, has previously described his style as being a “fly on the wall”, rejecting planned and meticulously composed shots in favor a more natural and in-the-moment look. However, while film has become a staple element of his work, he admits that he discovered it by accident – after breaking his digital camera, he was unwittingly loaned a film shooter that caused him to fall in love with the psychical medium.

Ciesay also shoots on traditional film, but uses it to amplify his trademark look: overexposed reflective clothing. Under the Places + Faces banner, Ciesay and his partner Solomon Boyede developed a custom line of reflective clothing that creates an ethereal glow when hit with the camera’s flash – and they’ve capitalized on this unique aesthetic to build an underground merchandising operation within London’s Hip-Hop community. 

“Gunner and Cam are [two of] my favorite photographers, says Ciesay, reflecting on his inclusion in the “In Focus” gallery. “Recognizing me and them for our work and putting us together in one space is really awesome.”

“This is the visual and the living representation of the hard work that we all have put in,” Kirk explains. “There’s not too many people our age doing this, there’s not too many people our skin tone doing this – and to be able to do this for Hip-Hop is a dream come true. “

Watch the video below for a full introduction to Cam Kirk, Gunner Stahl and Places + Faces, and for an inside look at the “In Focus” gallery from Billboard and 1800 Tequila:

This content is promoted by 1800 Tequila.

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