Street Style

Graffiti Artists

I first became aware of graffiti in London in 1982 – taking photos of the first hip hop tour to come to Europe for Melody Maker I met Futura and Dondi White who tagged the dumpster outside the hotel for my photo (see above), or maybe just because that was what they did. Earlier that month I had photographed American rapper J Walter Negro painting a mural of New York trains for the Christmas cover of the magazine. I loved this new art

Moving to New York later that year the art was everywhere. Commissioned by style magazine ‘The Face’ to photograph the Rock Steady Crew I went to Harlem to shoot them break dancing on a piece of cardboard in front of a huge mural of a tiger’s head. I photographed BDP aka Boogie Down Productions in the Bronx in front of a graffiti covered wall, Salt & Pepa on the Lower East Side, Bambaata and members of the Zulu Nation in the Bronx,Eric B and Rakim in NYC with graffiti behind them, Stetsasonic in Brooklyn posing with the Stetson sign covered in tags and stickers.I wondered who these unknown artists were that painted the backdrops for so many of my photographs.

In 1983 I was in Los Angeles documenting the East LA gang El Hoyo Maravilla – their turf was centered around the Hoyo Maravilla park and clearly marked by the local artists. East LA was covered in paintings too I shot punk band The Undertakers (below) at their rehearsal space in the barrio.

And today I am still thanking amazing artists like Cope2 for giving so much ‘Flava; to my photographs, and providing a time line for these images in the future.

GoHardBoyz The Bronx 2013

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Angel Haze

Angel Haze is the real thing. The twenty two year old stand out rapper’s music has been described as ‘brutal’ and ‘beautiful. She says “I focus on being as honest as I can possibly be because I feel like music, to an extent, is philanthropic. In all my ventures, I set out to reach people who are just like me.”  I photographed her for the latest issue of Out Magazine, she is a big Tracy Chapman fan, we made friends on the photo shoot after she discovered I shot the cover for Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution’. Growing up in Detroit in a Pentecostal sect she rejected that life and moved to New York. Legend has it she turned down an opportunity to tour with Beyonce, in December she leaked her latest album after the record company wanted to delay the release, she walks to her own beat.

Smutty Smith Tattoo

While working on a story for Rebel Ink Magazine in December I went with Smutty Smith (the Rockats) to  shoot him getting a tattoo by Baz at New York Hard Core. Baz, a rockabilly at heart, is fond of traditional and Japanese style tattoos. He spent 4 hours tattooing a lovely stand up base and roses on Smutty’s ribcage.

Smutty had tattoos when I first met him in 1981 – below is my photo backstage at the Whiskey in Los Angeles of ‘Rosemarie’ and a young friend admiring the art work.

Dre Dre & Dillon Cooper

This month Interview Magazine features my photo of new ‘young blood’ rapper Dillon Cooper (above) wearing Alexander Wang and Nike. shot in NYC December 2013. Dillon age 21 grew up in Crown Heights Brooklyn. He immersed himself in hip-hop in High School learning how to rap to Dr Dre’s classic ‘Nuthin’but a ‘G’ Thang’. Now part of the ‘Beast Coast’ movement he self released a debut mix tape “Cozmik’ last June.

Esquire Magazine, this month, is running my archive photo of Dr Dre (below) wearing a Raiders cap Nike top and K Swiss sneakers, shot in Los Angeles in 1990. He’s been listening to music for as long as he can remember. His mother has a picture of him in a onesie putting a needle to a turntable. He says “You can learn but in order to be good at it, to be really great at it, it has to be in you” Dr Dre now 48 years old,  is a rapper, producer and headphone magnate.

East LA 2013

30 years ago I spent a long hot summer documenting an East LA gang called the Hoyo Maravilla – hanging in the dusty park with the gang members and their friends I remember the constant sound of LAPD surveillance helicopters overhead. This past summer I contacted the three girls I had photographed  leaning against a car at the park (below) and asked if I could meet them to see where their lives had taken them. We met in Boyle Heights at their sister Arlene’s house and they took me to the Home Girl Café for lunch.

The three women had amazing tales to tell of their lives.They had lost husbands to gang violence, had sons serving time or in a gang . But these three amazing women had survived and thrived, they were mothers, career women and still the best of friends. They told me that most of the Hoyo Maravilla guys that I had photographed back in the day were either in jail or had passed away.We sat in the cafe and told stories. They tried to date the exact year I had met them: “Was the car we  were standing in front of gold or blue?” they asked, because one of their friends had been shot in the car and it had to be repainted after that because of the blood stains – this was how we would date the photos.

Now the Hoyo Maravilla park has been renovated – kids play on the grass – families picnic in the sun. Norma, Victoria and Vivian (formerly ‘The Riviera Bad Girls’) work for Human Resources, the Home Girl Café (a non profit organization to help gang members to reform their lives) and the District Attorney. Much respect to you ladies.

My book of photographs of El Hoyo Maravilla was published by Dashwood. http://janettebeckman.com/#num=content-661&id=album-15

John Cougar Mellancamp

Photographed John Cougar Mellencamp with Meg Ryan strolling in Soho for Frye boots.John is a cool dude and found out when I gave Meg my card, she is a Slick Rick fan. Impressive.

Style Wars 2

Style Wars 2 is a homage to Henry Chalfont’s 1983 movie Style Wars. The directors Velli and Amos who hail from Slovenia and Switzerland say when they saw Style Wars for the first time they fell in love with the movie and the artists : “We watched it so many times we were quoting it constantly – it started getting bigger and bigger.The artists were our idols. Then we made the movie with our pocket money. It took us five years”

Devi (above) is a contemporary graffiti artist who represents the artist Skeme from the original movie.

It is a mystery who’ bombed’  the train painted with the name ‘Style Wars’ we see in ‘SW2” Devi says it wasn’t him but we think he may be undercover …. In any case SW2 is a hilarious tribute to the original.

Graffiti : ‘The uninvited appropriation of public space. The public expression of an individual for others to enjoy’

Ben Sherman

A shoot for Ben Sherman at The Box in NYC. The three British bands Duologue, Morning Parade and Prides were dressed by Ben Sherman. The event, part of CMJ, was presented by  Her Majesty’s Government no less

The Go Hard Boyz

In 1999 Shea Evans and Don Villnueva, both Harlem dirt bike ‘warriors’, decided to form the movement they called the Go Hard Boyz (GHB). The GHB quickly grew and now has members all over the world – dirt bike and ATV riders and extreme sports specialists  - living a lifestyle in urban communities and rural suburbs Their unique riding style and attitude has spread far and wide The logo a mask with a backward baseball cap represents ‘their mantra “Do It With Style’ which is how they ride. Dirt bike riding is illegal in NYC and riders often get harassed and chased by the NYPD,

One summer afternoon I met Shea in Harlem – he introduced me to some of the GHB posse – they seemed like a family (above GHB on the stoop in Harlem).  Shea took me me to the Bronx to take photos of the GHB, we rode in the flat bed  of his cousin’s F150 pick up truck on the Bruckner expressway shooting the Go Hard Boyz doing wheelies, showing their skills through Harlem and the Bronx on a hot summers day. Shea tells me “It’s Bigger than Bikes”.

GHB riding on the Bruckner Expressway, the Bronx

Bike Life

Riding in the Bronx

Youngster riding in the Bronx in front of Cope mural

GHB posse on 158th Street Harlem

Brooklyn Girls Fight Club

One night I went to photograph the illegal girl fight scene in Brownsville.Legendary fighters from Mike Tyson to Riddick Bowe all grew up in the Brownsville public housing projects like Marcus Garvey and Tilden.

The girl fights are organized by the local ‘boys from the hood’ and publicized by word of mouth, the location is kept secret up to the day of the fight. Held in a huge windowless garage on a dark industrial street, pit bulls chained up in the back room, a boxing ring assembled in the middle of the space, security guards searching everyone as they come in.  The place is jam packed, people of all ages, folks with babies, local youth, and the girls who are going to fight, some as young as 14 years old. There is no admission charge and the fighters are paid with proceeds from gambling on the fights.

The brawlers are recruited from the street, they fight at the club to further establish their rep in the neighborhood and to get a shot at the prize money.The girls have to fight hard or no one gets paid, the winner gets $1000. The rules are “No grabbing. No kicking. No scratching. No hair pulling. No biting. Three rounds. Ninety seconds a round.”.

‘Boys from the hood’ take bets on the fight

Girls fight and the crowd goes crazy