CULTURE | Meet the photographers behind iconic images that defined Def Jam Records and shaped the culture [Watch full]

When it comes to hip hop music it would be impossible to ignore the impact of the culture attached to it and how it shaped popular culture. Looking back at hip hop still in its infancy 37 years ago, two individuals Rick Rubin and Russel Simmons created a record label that would be the voice of hip hop called Def Jam Recordings.

Going back to the labels inception, imagery was an integral part to the visual identity of the artists, which came through the lens of today’s post-modern titan photographers, Jeanette Beckman, Jonathan Mannion and the late Ricky Powell . To celebrate the impact of these iconic photographers who captured the labels biggest stars like LL Cool J, Run DMC and Slick Rick to name a few, Def Jam recordings released a three part documentary series in 2020 titled Through The Lens, paying tribute to three distinct eras in the labels history.

Watch the full documentary FEATURING UK photographer Jaenette Beckman and Ricky Powell below…     

Through The Lens – Janette Beckman (Episode 1)

British-born photographer Janette Beckman, who lives and works in New York, began her career at the dawn of punk rock, working for such music magazines as The Face and Melody Maker. Beckman was one of the first photographers to shoot LL Cool J, T La Rock and Slick Rick.

Through The Lens – Ricky Powell (Episode 2)

Born and raised in New York City, Ricky Powell is a legendary photographer who specializes in the environmental portrait. Powell’s photographs focus on the organic New Yorker. His photographs simultaneously convey intimacy and detachment, as they provide a unique lenses through which the viewer can analyze the mundane. Powell considers the relationship between the photographer and the photograph to be “a chemical connection of some sort”. (Fifty24SF Gallery)

Episode three’s full epispode was not available online so we decided to feature Jonathan Mannion’s photography Focus with BET Networks below.

Inside Aaliyah’s Final Photoshoot | ‘Focus’ with Jonathan Mannion [BET Networks]

Get the soundtrack to Through The Lens on the platforms below
Apple Music

Try Apple Music

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