Inside “Contact High – A visual history of hip-hop”

2 minutes read

 What is hip-hop? Throwback to the early stage of a cultural and artistic movement born in the South Bronx. Discover how, in the early 70s, photographers captured this new genre to make it a global phenomenon.

Here is a look at “Contact High” by Vikki Tobak and Fab 5 Freddy.

  • Hip-hop: sound, style, and culture

Hip-hop emerged from different cities across the United States in the 70s. Each regional individuality shaped this cultural movement. From music, dance to graffiti artist, hip hop was the self-expression from the street.  It also impacted fashion with some emblematic items like athletic jersey, Nike air force 1, sneakers, skateboarding fashion, etc.


Janette Beckman, Salt-N-Pepa, New York City, 1987
Barron Claiborne, Biggie, King of New York, 1997.


  • Photographer and beyond

Photographers were the first to immortalize this movement. They shaped a specific image of artists to communicate and market them to the world.


The selection of images and contact sheet are a testimony of their work. Most of them are now iconic for hip-hop culture.

Clay Patrick Mcbride, Kanye West and Jay-Z, New York, 2005
Michael Lavine, OutKast, Stankonia, Atlanta, 2000


Phil Knott, A$AP Rocky, LONG.LIVE.A$AP, Harlem, 2012.


  • Highlights

 Women in hip-hop

Hip-hop music was a male drive industry when some women stood upon the scene. Thanks to their unique voices, storytelling, style, and lyrics, they have established their position in hip-hop’s world. Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Queen Latifah, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B are among these influent women.

Mark Baptiste,Erykah Badu, Baduizm, 1997.

The “class photo”: A great day in hip-hop

If we can select only one picture to highlight hip hop, a “great day in hip hop” would be the one. For XXL Magazine, Gordon Parks photographed 2OO hip-hop artists in Harlem. It was in 1998 when hip hop was already a worldwide phenomenon.

Gordon Parks, “a great day in hip hop”, 1998.



Plan your visit:

  • Exhibit on view from April 26TH through August 18th.
  • Location: 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067.
  • Hours: Wed-Sun 11AM-6PM.
  • Admission: Free
  • Duration: I spent 1h30 hour to discover it.
  • Audio guide available and guided tour on Saturdays and Sundays at 3 pm.
  • Parking: $1.50 with validation
  • More information available at

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