This year marks the anniversary of the shooting date of two iconic photographs, taken at the same location, forty years apart. In 1958, Art Kane created the image that has come to be known as “A Great Day in Harlem.” The photo presented fifty-seven of the world’s greatest jazz musicians gathered on a stoop on East 126th Street, in Harlem, New York City. Over time, this photo has become legendary: a movie was made about it, and many recreations have been staged around the world, but none as interesting as the photo that was made by the great Gordon Parks, on September 29, 1998, on the same stoop. On that day, organized by the editors of XXL Magazine, almost two-hundred hip-hop artists gathered to be part of a photograph that was called “The Greatest Day in Hip-Hop.”
With the 20th anniversary of the 1998 photo approaching, on today’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast we will discuss the making of that image. We speak with two of the people responsible for producing the photo: the editor-in-chief of XXL at the time, Sheena Lester, and writer Michael Gonzales. We also welcome back journalist and author Vikki Tobak to the show, whose upcoming book, Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, discusses the making of this image and, finally, we are joined by artist Fab 5 Freddy, who was a participant in the photo and shares his recollection of that incredible day in Harlem. Also, in the weeks to come, we hope to publish a bonus episode with Jonathan Kane, son of photographer Art Kane, who will bring his insight to the making of and the legacy of his father’s original photo.
Guests: Vikki Tobak, Sheena Lester, Michael Gonzales, Fab 5 Freddy
Photograph © Gordon Parks. Courtesy of The Gordon Parks Foundation