Podcast: A History of Hip-Hop Photography


With great thanks to Vikki Tobak and the Contact High Project, we welcome three photographers to our studio who are responsible for some of the most iconic images from the history of hip-hop. Janette Beckman, Eric Johnson, and Danny Hastings join us to tell the stories behind their photos of RUN-DMC, Wu Tang Clan, Lauryn Hill, and many others. We also speak about issues important to photographers, from on-set technique, to artistic collaboration and influence, to gear, to networking and, of course, licensing of images. For us, this was a highly anticipated recording and it did not disappoint. Whether you are a hip-hop fan interested in behind-the-scenes stories or a photographer looking for insight, join us for this incredible conversation.

Janette Beckman began her career at the dawn of punk rock in the U.K., photographing The Clash, Sex Pistols, and Boy George, as well as three Police album covers. Moving to New York in 1982, she was drawn to the underground hip-hop scene and photographed pioneers such as Run DMC, Slick Rick, Salt’n’Pepa, Grandmaster Flash, and Big Daddy Kane. She has published four books and currently has an exhibition of silkscreen prints at 212 Arts in New York.

Eric Johnson has created iconic hip-hop images of Notorious B.I.G, Lauryn Hill, Dipset, Li’l Wayne, and newer artists like G Herbo and Cakes da Killa. His work stretches across music genres to include Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Maxwell and, for the past decade, he has helmed Upstairs at Eric’s, a loft space in Manhattan that is equal parts studio, gallery, disco, lounge, and design studio.

Danny Hastings has shot 150 album covers and directed more than 40 music videos. Listed in Complex Magazine as one of the rap photographers every rap fan should know, his most notable album covers include Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Big Pun’s Capital Punishment, Nas’s I Am, as well as album art for Raekwon, Eminem, and Jeru the Damaja. Hastings is now directing his second feature film.

Vikki Tobak is a journalist, correspondent, and former CNN producer who currently writes and produces for Complex, Mass Appeal, and The FADER. She is the author of Contact High: Hip-Hop Photography + Visual Culture, an upcoming book from Penguin/Random House.

Guests: Janette Beckman, Eric Johnson, Danny Hastings, Vikki Tobak

Afrika Bambaata, 1983. Photograph © Janette Beckman
Boogie Down Productions - Scott La Rock & KRS-One, 1987. Photograph © Janette Beckman
Beastie Boys with Rick Rubin, 1985. Photograph © Janette Beckman
Jam Master Jay and son, 1991. Photograph © Janette Beckman
LL COOL J, 1985. Photograph © Janette Beckman
Native Tongues Posse, 1990. Photograph © Janette Beckman
Run-D.M.C. Posse, 1984. Photograph © Janette Beckman
Salt-N-Pepa, 1987. Photograph © Janette Beckman
Women Rappers NYC, 1988. Photograph © Janette Beckman
Wu Tang Clan (from "Enter the Wu-Tang"), 1993. Photograph © Danny Hastings
Raekwon (from "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx"), 1995. Photograph © Danny Hastings
Gang Starr (from "Hard to Earn"), 1994. Photograph © Danny Hastings
Jeru the Damaja (from "The Sun Rises in the East"), 1994. Photograph © Danny Hastings
Ice Cube (for Rap Pages magazine), 1994. Photograph © Danny Hastings
Big Pun (from "Capital Punishment"), 1998. Photograph © Danny Hastings
Eminem (from "The Slim Shady LP"), 1999. Photograph © Danny Hastings
Jay Z (from Stress Magazine. Jay Z’s first magazine cover), 1996. Photograph © Danny Hastings
Notorious B.I.G. Photograph © Eric Johnson
Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans, Photograph © Eric Johnson
Lauryn Hill (from "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill"), 1998. Photograph © Eric Johnson
Cam’ron (from "Come Home with Me"), 2002. Photograph © Eric Johnson
Juelz Santana and Cam’ron of The Diplomats (aka Dipset), 2002. Photograph © Eric Johnson
De La Soul, "Stakes Is High," 1996. Photograph © Eric Johnson
Jason Tables, Vikki Tobak, Danny Hastings, Janette Beckman, Eric Johnson, Allan Weitz



Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Lawrence Neves