“Ricky Powell, aka the Rickster, has seen a lot of history. He has worked variously as a busboy, bike messenger, Frozade vender, substitute teacher, columnist, cable television host, comic, and dog walker. But he is best known as a wisecracking, self-described ‘playground rat’ who used his beat-up Minolta and party-crashing skills to become a nightlife fixture and a chronicler of the then-exploding world of hip hop.”
—The New York Times
For two decades, Ricky Powell has prowled the streets of his native New York, toured the world with Hip Hop’s biggest acts, and full-on crashed celebrity-studded parties on both coasts. Equipped with only his wits and an instamatic camera, Powell elbowed his way into the center of the scene with no shame. “It’s for public access,” Powell could be heard, pleading for an interview with a pizza shop owner on his cult cable TV show, “Rappin’ with the Rickster.”
Powell knows access is everything, and he delivers. In Public Access: Ricky Powell Photographs 1985–2005, Powell presents the actors, musicians, performers, and artists that inspired him, including Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Eric B. and Rakim, Slick Rick, Biz Markie, Eazy E, Method Man, LL Cool J, Fab 5 Freddy, Steven Tyler, Nina Hagen, John Sex, John Lee Hooker, LeRoy Neiman, Martha Graham, Elizabeth Taylor, Paloma Picasso, Calvin Klein, Barbara Walters, Grace Jones, Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Debi Mazar, Cindy Crawford, Elvira, Dondi, Doze, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol, among many others. Also presented in Public Access are Powell’s never-before-published collaborations with top artists, graffiti writers, and photographers including Ron Galella, Ron English, Phil Frost, Lee Quinones, Sam Flores, David Choe, Dalek, DR. REVOLT, ZEPHYR, QUIK, TEAM, DAZE, SEEN, KAWS, JEST, BIGFOOT, SSUR, and HAZE, among others.
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Ricky Powell, a native New Yorker, has been published in The New York Times, the New York Post, the Daily News, The Village Voice, Time, Newsweek, VIBE, The Source, Rolling Stone, Spin, Details, Paper, Mass Appeal, Word Up!, Ego Trip, and Grand Royal, to name a few. Powell’s clients have included Cannon, MTV, NBC, the Apollo Theater, Capitol Records, and Weiden + Kennedy, among others. His work has been exhibited at the Eyejammie Fine Arts Gallery, New York and Upper Playground, San Francisco and was featured in “500 of the Greatest Rock and Roll Photos,” presented by Kodak. Powell is the author of Frozade Moments: Classic NYC Street Photography (Eyejammie, 2004), The Rickford Files: Classic New York Photographs (St. Martin’s, 1999), and Oh Snap!: The Rap Photography of Ricky Powell (St. Martin’s, 1998). He lives and works in New York.
Charlie Ahearn directed the classic Hip Hop movie Wild Style (1982) and recently coauthored Yes Yes Y’all: The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip-Hop’s First Decade (Da Capo Press, 2002). Glenn O’Brien is a poet, essayist, novelist, screenwriter, editor, creative director, actor, stand-up comedian, producer, director, TV host, copywriter, and advice columnist.
Zoe Cassavetes is a writer, producer, actress, and director. She is cocreator, with Sofia Coppola, of the TV show High Octane and director of Men Make Women Crazy Theory.
ZEPHYR is a New York City–born graffiti writer. QUIK, the “King of Tag” from Hollis, Queens has been exhibited in galleries and museums in the United States and internationally. DR. REVOLT is an original member of the historic New York City graffiti crew The Rolling Thunder Writers (RTW). REVOLT created the classic “YO! MTV Raps” logo and has been exhibited in art galleries worldwide. TEAM is a graffiti writer, designer, and the former singer and songwriter of Urban Blight.
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.
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