Please join XXL veteran journalists and contributors on May 9, 2023 — Sheena Lester, Datwon Thomas, Bonsu Thompson, Larry Hester, Johanna Fiore, Piotr Sikora, Nelson George, Jonathan Kane, Barron Clairborne and other special guests! — at Fotografiska May 9th.
Almost 25 years ago, on September 29, 1998, I placed my Rolleiflex camera in my shoulder bag and took the train up to 126th Street to meet Gordon Parks on the block where he would capture history for XXL — a magazine I helped launch in ’97. I spent the day with Mr. Parks for what would become one of my greatest life moments.
I was always drawn to journalists and photographers. In my era, they were the documentarians of the golden age of hip-hop journalism: The Source, Vibe, Rap Pages, Ego Trip, On the Go, Stress, 4080 and, of course, XXL … those were the days, man. Although one of the greatest photographers to ever live, Parks had never documented hip-hop culture, and he was about to make some noise.
17 East 126th Street had already made history in 1958 with Art Kane’s original shoot for Esquire, coined “A Great Day in Harlem,” in which he captured 57 legendary jazz musicians. It was a powerful and cerebral moment watching the sun attempt to shut down the shoot of close to 200 rap legends as Parks was waiting to press the shutter-release button. He got the shot and history was made. As the dozens of rap artists dispersed, I took out my camera going through 10 rolls of film. I made it a mission to identify other folks who were snapping photos that day and developed the largest archive of behind-the-scenes photos of that “great day.”
I am honored to receive the invitation from Fotografiska to moderate a discussion about the legendary photoshoots from ’58 and ’98. iD8 Entertainment has published a special-edition journal for the evening, in which I edited, entitled “Hip-Hop’s Greatest Day” — giving a glimpse of some of the day’s images that were captured by Parks’ protégé Johanna Fiore, former SLAM editor Ben Osborne and myself. (Shout out to Paul Scirecalabrisotto for the masterful design work).
Tickets on sale here
It is incredible witnessing Kane’s photo continuing to reunite people 25 years later. I’ve learned firsthand: Most great work is that which stands the test of time — which can only be realized later in one’s life when least expected.
With the soon-to-be-released, five-episode podcast series on Audible (in which I am Executive Producer) entitled “The Greatest Day”, about Sheena Lester’s story of making the impossible happen, it is truly an honor to continue to strive to make sure this day is never forgotten and recognized as the greatest day in hip-hop history.
JONATHAN RHEINGOLD, RESPECT. Founder
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