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From Biggie to Kendrick Lamar: outtakes from hip-hop’s most iconic photos

Those raised in the era of digital photos may not know what a contact sheet is, but for photographers in the age of film, there was nothing as exciting or stressful. A print of all the images on a roll of film, it showcased an artists’s process and progression, but it also showed all the glitches and failures, outtakes, and goofy moments of a photo shoot.

A new exhibit uses contact sheets to take a nuanced look at both photographer and subject. “CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip Hop,” opens at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, California today. It celebrates the work of the genre’s most acclaimed photographers, from Jamel Shabazz’s potent street shots of hip-hop’s early tastemakers, to studio portraits of stars from Salt-N-Pepa to Slick Rick.

“Contact sheets are like looking into a photographer’s private world,” says Vikki Tobak, the show’s curator, who originally published these photos in a book of the same name. “It’s a rare glimpse into their process and allows viewers to see so much more than the final product.”

The sheets from Barron Claiborne’s famous portrait of the Notorious B.I.G. are one moving example. The iconic photo of the young rapper, taken in March of 1997 just three days before he was shot to death, has since been repurposed and remixed into countless building murals and t-shirts. It shows the young rapper stone-faced, his brow wrinkled in a frown, as if contemplating his imminent tragic end. But one of the last images on Claiborne’s contact sheet (seen above) shows Biggie letting his guard down and cracking a smile.

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Tags: #music, #musichistory, #photography, #socialmedia
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