Public Access: Ricky Powell Photographs 1985-2005

Ricky Powell, Author, Glenn O'Brien, Author, Charlie Ahearn, Author powerHouse Books $35 (128p) ISBN 978-1-57687-261-1
Straight-up access with a chaser of attitude, this volume underscores both Powell's reportage style of photography and the tributary writings-both textual and graffiti-of contributors. Not a formally trained artist, Powell came up on the scene in his native New York City during the mid 1980s, took his 35 millimeter camera out of his pocket and captured the personalities that defined an era of urban history. Through his friendship with the Beastie Boys, Powell introduced himself to old-school rappers such as Slick Rick, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Biz Markie, Method Man, and legendary artists like Basquiat and Keith Haring. The collection of photographs is curiously egalitarian-a picture of a supermodel shares the page with a shot of an afghan hound-and images of ordinary people rank just as prominently as the picture of Powell himself with Andy Warhol. With graffiti by choice designers superimposed on some of the photographs, and letters to Powell that are simultaneously shout-outs to him and to another era of city life, the book is a collaborative construction much like a yearbook that annuals Powell's encounters with the world: a hectic convergence of talent, loosely organized, gritty but with disarming warmth in unexpected people and places.
Reviewed on: 09/01/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
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