ABOUT

Reknowned for documenting some of the most iconic Hip-Hop artists of the last 20 years from Biggie Smalls to Erykah Badu, Eddie Otchere and Rémy Bourdeau understand the act of seeing. By understanding that to really really document a culture - you can't just point the camera, they have managed to capture the light in others, extending a creative lineage that’s bigger than hip-hop. It’s a through line through Black culture, a Diaspora across borders; a beam of light.

 

To do this kind of work requires great trust from your subjects. Anytime a photographer enters a community the element of trust is critical. Especially in today’s global landscape where an east London producer can influence the sound of a rapper from Canarsie, Brooklyn or an Afrobeats rhythm can make it’s way from Accra to Beyonce and back again. Hip-Hop is more than just a way of life - it’s connective tissue. Photographers capture that narrative and put it in historical context, whether they are documenting their own communities or drawn to underground spaces to search out an idea, a sound, a moment still percolating. A silent witness observing and contextualising. 

 

Otchere’s career as a photographer began in the late 1980s, when he started documenting the culture he was living in. It was the late golden age of hip-hop, and access to  some of the biggest names in the hip-hop world, including Jay-Z, Nas, Aaliyah and Wu-Tang Clan was still relatively possible. He implemented his London-born, council estate-red hustle to create a wide-ranging document of various subcultures. Otchere describes his images as “a living representation” of the artist in question, opting to stay true to his chosen format — film photography — to immortalize hip-hop and bring you into his world. When hip-hop was still relatively insular, Otchere’s knowledge of the visual language was everything. Photographing a close up of a then baby Aaliyah or picking up on the bubble coats and backpacks of Black Star meant having a visual literacy raised on hip-hop and its predecessors. One could argue that Eddie Otchere was at the right place at the right moment but it was much more than that. Otchere recognized and claimed the visual cues - cuban link or dookie rope? Bubble goose jacket or Carhartt? -  woven into the narrative unfolding in front of his lens. That level of understanding between photographer and subject goes beyond borders. 

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 Bourdeau’s works calls to mind the energy and levity of early hip-hop photography while extending the contemporary conversation on what it means to document hip-hop and diasporic subculture. By documenting Paris and London nightlife and music culture, Bourdeau extends the contemporary lens on the likes of Princess Nokia, Thundercat, Skepta, House of Pharaohs. The  candid, snapshot sensibility of Bourdeau’s work is very much of its time. After all, access to artists has shifted and the age of social media and hyper saturation of visual culture has changed the alot for photography. What has stayed the same is the great responsibility of seeing. Catching hip-hop history through intensely personal moments and pushing the proverbial shutter in order to push conversation. This, after all, is ultimately at the heart of Black Futur.

 There’s an old proverb that says  'See the light in others, and treat them as if that is all you see.' The act of seeing across

the Black diaspora and into a shared story is ultimately at the heart of Black Futur. 

Vikki Tobak

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