This Photo Exhibit Celebrating 50 Years of Hip Hop Just Opened in NYC

Among the more than 200 photos are images of Missy Elliott, Tupac Shakur, Diddy, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and Snoop Dogg.

Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill, East Harlem, New York City (1993)
Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill, East Harlem, New York City (1993). Photo:

Lisa Leone/Courtesy of Fotografiska New York

On the surface, it was just a birthday party in the recreation room of a Sedgwick Avenue apartment building in The Bronx, but on a summer day in 1973 the music being spun by Clive Campbell, known as DJ Kool Herc, was about to change the course of American music, as his sister’s August 11 celebration is now credited as being the birthplace of hip-hop music.

As the 50th anniversary of that date approaches, Fotografiska New York — the Manhattan location of the photography museum that started in Stockholm — is celebrating the impact of the musical genre with a new exhibit, Hip Hop: Conscious, Unconscious, opening on Thursday, Jan. 26 and running through May 21.

“The energy of the 70s which birthed this phenomenon is so dynamically captured in photography from this period,” Fotografiska New York’s Direction of Exhibitions Amanda Hajjar told Travel + Leisure, explaining that visitors will gain an understanding of “the deep history of how hip-hop started in New York” as well as how it grew and progressed. “Images today also capture an evolution of how hip-hop has moved in a more progressive and inclusive direction.”

DJ Competition New Music Seminar New York City (1984)
DJ Competition New Music Seminar New York City (1984).

Josh Cheuse/Courtesy of Fotografiska New York


On display across two floors of the museum on Park Avenue South, between 21st and 22nd Streets, the exhibit will include more than 200 photos from 1972 to 2022, that “traces the rise and proliferation of hip-hop through five decades of work from trailblazing image-makers who helped codify hip-hop as the most influential pop culture movement of its generation,” Fotografiska described in a release. 

“It's easy to forget that there was a time before hip-hop was an industry and before it made money,” said Chief Creative Officer of Mass Appeal Sacha Jenkins, who curated the exhibit with Sally Berman. “It wasn't conscious of itself. It was just existing with young people living their lives, dressing as they did, trying to entertain themselves with limited resources and creating an aesthetic that registered amongst themselves. It wasn't for the world; it was for a very specific community.”

Queen Latifah shot for Sky Magazine (1990)
Queen Latifah, Sky Magazine (1990).

Jesse Frohman/Courtesy of Fotografiska New York

Among the photos on display will be ones of A Tribe Called Quest from 1990 by Janette Beckman, Missy Elliott in 1998 by Christian Witkin, Cardi B in 2018 by Christian Weber, LL Cool J in 1992 by Jesse Frohman, Tupac Shakur in 1993 by Shawn Mortensen, Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill in 1993 by Lisa Leone, Christopher “Biggie” Wallace in  1994 by Geoffroy de Boismenu, and Public Enemy in 1986 by Glen E. Friedman. Other musicians celebrated in the exhibit include 50 Cent, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Beastie Boys, Busta Rhymes, Diddy, Flavor Flav, Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim, Mary J. Blige, Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj, Questlove, Salt-n-Pepa, and Snoop Dogg, among others. 

“The trajectory of the photography is really fun,” Hajjar told T+L. “You see this progression from reportage in the 70s and 80s, highly produced album and studio images from the 90s and 2000s and now to current photographers who are working with more abstract and stylized techniques. This exhibition really celebrates the artistry of photography.” 

Exterior facade of Fotografiska New York

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Vox Media

Tickets to Hip Hop: Conscious, Unconscious are $31 for adults; $21 for students with ID,  those over the age of 62, and military and veterans. An early bird rate is offered on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9  to 11 a.m with $20 tickets for adults and $11 for the discounted groups. One dollar of each ticket will go to the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx. Chase Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card cardholders who show their physical cards will also save 20% in-store on all merchandise and all posters online, get priority access to the museum’s popular Verōnika restaurant, and receive a free alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink from the museum café for each ticket purchased. 

The five-floor museum, housed in the former The Church Mission House that was built in 1894, opens daily at 9 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. on Sundays through Tuesdays and 11 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, with the last entry being one hour before closing. 

“We're celebrating the 50th Anniversary of hip-hop in the city that started it all,” Hajjar said. “Fotografiska is proud to be a part of what surely will be a multitude of celebrations throughout the city and welcome everyone to come join us.”

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