photographic index

ba digital photography london south bank university

Ahmed Abdisalam


Artist: Ahmed Abdisalam
Type: Inkjet photographic print
Date: 2007
Description: …. Completed May 2007. Made in response to Anita Corbin’s photographic series ‘Visible Girls’, Girls Subcultures box held at the London South Bank University, London. A series of 3 images.
Subject: …, subcultures
Measurements: …x…
Location: London South Bank University Digital Photography Dept
ID Number: PI-RGSB-AhA0001-AhA00…
Licensing: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales, Ahmed Abdisalam c/o London South Bank University, Digital Photography Course, UK

I decided to write about hip-hop youth subculture for my Photographic Index assay. In my essay I will write about the relationship between today’s youth culture and music. Growing up, I was heavily influenced by hip-hop. In fact as a child, hip-hop was a part of my life. I got interested in hip-hop as a teenager, listening to rappers like LLCoolJ, NWA, KRS one and Public Enemy. I fell in love with hip-hop, after watching YO MTV raps (a music programme from the 90’s). From that moment on, I was addicted and I started to collect every hip-hop tape I could find around me and started to deejay with special focus on hip-hop. I’m really addicted to old school rappers like DR DRE and CHUCK D.

I started my research by looking at other photographers work, I also went to libraries, looked in magazines, looked around me, to find something I would be passionate about, to find something I liked to do. Then I found one photographer who worked whit hip-hop subculture and it really inspired me. He used great graffiti backgrounds with strong colors and very good composition, after that from there I know I found which subculture I was going to choose. After I choose a subculture it was time to get subjects for my project, I got in contact whit a underground rapper know as KANE he is well known in south London, he agreed to let me shoot him. I also made contact with a graffiti artist, he too agreed to let me shoot him.

Finally when I found what I wanted to do, I started immediately to shoot. I just did it. Just gradually shot, shot, shot. I just kept shooting, that’s what I kept doing. I also envisioned the location where I would do the shooting. There were few things that I needed to remember before I took the pictures of the rapper and the graffiti artists. First, I used (100- 200 ISO speed). From what I understand this is to capture natural light (not for low lit subject), and allows the most richness of colour to be captured. Second, the composition needed to be very good if I wanted to get terrific images, and then there is the subject I needed to keep in mind that people are insecure and do not like having their photograph taken. So the challenge was to make the subject feel comfortable and then photograph them.

To me, the best part of photography is the result; I got to have a personal moment with the subject and create beautiful images. It’s the product of a conversation between the subject, and me and that to me as a photographer is worth everything.

Hip-hop Background
Amid the break out of poverty in the Bronx, New York in the mid-1970s, there emerged a musical form and subculture known as rap or Hip Hop. Inspired by economic ruin and limited technologies, Black teenagers were able to produce their own musical style with two turntables(or mix table), a microphone and some old soul, blues and funk records (Back in 1970/1980) and come up whit what is know as hip hop today. Along with breakdancing, graffiti and a particular dress style they created a lively form of expression that relied on street-based production of cultural capital. Fact is young people actively create identities with the tools of cultural production made available to them in the modern world. Hip Hop subculture has emerged as having a significant influence on young people who want to openly celebrate and support ethnic multiplicity and individualism, at the same time.

While its roots are certainly embedded in Black African-American subcultures it has come long way since its birth in New York. They looped old beats and placed them in their own particular social context with specific lyrics, making a medium that not only had a referential relationship to the past, but a contextual link to the lived experience of being Black and on the streets. Although rap music was originally more a part of the social culture than anything overtly political, its values, narratives and structure were often directly opposing to the logic of dominant White middle-class western culture. It’s recycling of pre-recorded sounds overturned western views of production, its celebration of the Black body and cultural style.

Rap music was a way for youths in black inner city neighbourhoods to express what they were feeling, seeing, and living and it became a form of entertainment. Hanging out with friends and rapping or listening to others rap kept black youths out of trouble in the dangerous neighbourhoods in which they lived. The dominant culture did not have a type of music that filled the needs of these youth, so they created their own. So, rap music originally emerged as a way for black inner city youth to express their everyday life and struggles. Rap is now seen as a subculture that includes a large number of middle to upper white class youths which has grown to support and appreciate rap music. As Hip Hop gradually grew beyond its New York birthplace it quickly became a popular youth culture.

The commercialisation and shift to the hard core realism of LA rap (gangster rap) that told the story of racism and rage in the gang-ridden ghettos found a place in the music market of a youth population, growing up in an insecure global climate. There have been of course moral panics over the hard core (gangster rap) Hip Hop from streets of Los angels coming into the bedrooms of young people worldwide, but this didn’t stop the culture in fact it increased its notion as a popular subculture. As I mentioned earlier graffiti which is still very popular today, and hip hop go hand in hand, graffiti is considered one of the four elements of hip hop (along with rapping, DJing, and breakdancing).

These were the four major forms of creative expression that came from the Bronx, NY and spread to the rest of the world. Graffiti represented the visual, rapping and DJ produced the music, and brakedancing was the dance. In the early days of hip-hop, all of these elements were deeply intertwined together. Graffiti artists were very often breakdancers and rappers and DJs as well. At the hottest parties, you might see a graffiti artist doing his thing on a wall while the DJ spins and scratches, the rapper mc’s for the crowd, and the breakdancers battling each other on the dance floor. Many youth in the world today are considered part of the rap subculture because they share a common love for a type of music that combines catchy beats with rhythmic music and thoughtful lyrics to create songs with a distinct political and social stance.

Rap lyrics are suppose to be about the problems rappers have seen, such as poverty, crime, violence, racism, poor living conditions, drugs, alcoholism, corruption, and prostitution. These are serious problems that many within the rap subculture community believe are being ignored by mainstream media. Those within the rap subculture recognise and acknowledge that these problems exist. Today Hip hop culture is presence in countries as diverse as Egypt, Brazil, Japan, Britain, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Senegal, Sweden, Somalia Bosnia, , Czech republic, Algeria, Mexico, Israel, Palestine, Jamaica, France, China, Cuba, Colombia, Lebanon and Norway, for example, demonstrates its rise as a dominant force in global youth culture today.

“Being a photographer and a rapper is very similar, especially when it comes to the business side of things. You have to realize that a rapper is an artist. A photographer is an artist. The rapper will create music or write music and will have the rights to that. The photographer will take a photograph and have the rights to those images”.

3 Responses

  1. alex says:

    very interesting photographs, i really love the background and the idea

  2. babie 1010 says:

    oi i fink ur well fit x

  3. Stella says:

    Hats off to whevoer wrote this up and posted it.

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