Once upon a time before crack, inner-city communities were blighted by poverty and unemployment—but not by the drug wars that tore families apart, destroying lives with needless violence and mindless addiction. Once upon a time before crack, pride and style were as inseparable as a beatbox and mixtape, or as a pair of shoes and matching purse. Once upon a time before crack, Jamel Shabazz was on the scene, working the streets of New York City, capturing the faces and places of an era that have long since disappeared.
Best known as hip-hop’s finest fashion photographer for his blockbuster best-selling monograph, Back in the Days (powerHouse Books, 2001), Shabazz revisited his archive and unearthed an extraordinary collection of never-before-published documentary photographs collected for his third powerHouse Books release A Time Before Crack. A visual diary of the streets of New York City from the mid-70s to the mid-80s, Shabazz’s distinctive photographs reveal the families, the poses, and the players who made this age extraordinary.
Originally published in 2005, this remarkable collection of documentary photographs, unearthed from Jamel Shabazz’s private archive, instantly became the next highly coveted installment in Shabazz’s oeuvre. Back in print for the first time, this edition of the groundbreaking publication includes a new cover, additional images, and updated text written by new contributors recounting their tales from the times (Calvin Klein, a former crack dealer; Cali Ente Usher, a professor at Morehouse College; Khary Mason, a former homicide detective; Liza Jessie Peterson, a poet and former teacher on Rikers Island; Chris Slaughter, a current high school teacher in Brooklyn, and a poet; Tiffiny Bates-Johnson, a former school safely officer; Masta Killa, a poet and member of the Wu Tang Clan; Vivian Green, a former crack abuser; Kenneth Montgomery, a current public defender and former prosecutor; Cindy Pitts, a former resident of Red Hook Houses; Koe Rodriguez, a freelance writer).
About the Author
Jamel Shabazz is best known for his iconic photographs of New York City during the 1980s. He has authored ten monographs and contributed to over three dozen other photography related books.
His photographs have been exhibited worldwide and his work is housed within the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Gordon Parks Foundation and the Getty Museum. Over the years, Shabazz has instructed young students at the Studio Museum in Harlem’s “Expanding the Walls” project, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s “Teen Curators” program, and the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. He is also the 2018 recipient of the Gordon Parks award for his commitment to documentary photography. Shabazz is a member of the photo collective Kamoinge. As an artist his goal is to contribute to the preservation of world history and culture.