JOE CONZO JR.
In an article published on October 4, 2005, The New York Times proclaimed photographer Joe Conzo Jr. as “The Man Who Took HipHop’s Baby Pictures.” The scope and magnitude of his visceral camera images had finally been acknowledged by American mainstream media.
Born and raised in the Bronx, “Joey” acquired a flair for photography at the age of nine while attending the Agnes Russell School on the campus of Columbia University; later, advancing those skills at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He grew up at the heels of his grandmother a dynamic leader and passionate activist within the minority community of the South Bronx the late Dr. Evelina Antonetty. His father, Joe Conzo Sr., was longtime confidant and historian for the late “King of Latin Music” Tito Puente. Exposure to these “politically and culturally charged” worlds had a profound effect on how he viewed his environment through the lens of a camera.
However, Joe Conzo Jr. really came of age as a young man and as a photographer at a turbulent period in New York City’s urban decay. He was part of a generation that refused to be silenced by the choke of flameengulfed South Bronx tenements and a disparaging educational system. Their defiant voices gave rise to a cultural movement known as Hip Hop. And at its early stage, Joey passionately embraced the role of photographer within the phenomenon.
Most of those images from the 70’s and 80’s caught on b/w film by Joey, have traveled in one form or another to parts of Asia, Europe, and the Americas. They are regarded by genre experts and academians as an important visual record of key pioneers to the modern Hip Hop movement, and integral to any serious discourse on the subject. His first book “Born In The Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop” (2007), a collaborative effort with noted New York musicologist and curator Johan Kugelberg, has received worldwide acclaim. In 2008, a collection of his early Hip Hop photographs became part of a permanent archive housed at Cornell University. The images are located right next to its copy of The Gettysburg Address document.
Like most modern photographers, Joey has undergone the transition to digital. His stills continue to reflect the four main tenets of Hip Hop culture which are Mc’ing (often called rapping), DJ’ing, graffiti writing, and breakdancing. He has traveled throughout the USA onassignment, as a lecturer, and as an exhibitor. He has crossed the oceans to England, Japan, Korea and other parts of the world where the global impact of Hip Hop music, culture, and dancing has become undeniable. His images have appeared on HBO and VH1, in the motion picture film CB4 (starring Chris Rock), in publications such as VIBE, Complex, HipHop Connection (Europe), Urban Hitz (Australia), Esquire and Wax Poetics. His works also appear in the books “Hip Hop Immortals” (2003), “Yes, Yes, Y’all” (2002), and have been displayed at the prestigious Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York.
Currently, Joey has a second book of photographs in progress, and a third in the planning stage. In mid January, he will be travelling to Amsterdam (The Netherlands) to give a presentation of his work.