CHI MODU | ARTSI UNCATEGORIZED
Vantaa Art Museum, Vantaa Finland June 6 - September 1, 2019
Budweiser and Bud X presented Chi Modu UNCATEGORIZED photo exhibition in Lagos, Nigeria Dec. 1-2, 2018
Nigerian-born Chi Modu has taken photos of all of the biggest stars of rap music. From Tupac to Snoop Dogg, the American photojournalist has captured them all. In this BBC Africa One Minute Story, he explains why he thinks documenting black musicians is so important.
Video journalist : Grace Ekpu
A LIMITED EDITION PROJECT
CHI MODU & YES.
Chi Modu is one of those guys whose Instagram feed is an endless stream of epic throwbacks. Back in the early-to-mid nineties when Hip-hop was making it’s first bull-run, Chi was there as a burgeoning photographer, recording its defining years and legendary characters. This special collaboration celebrates the historical storytelling his images convey and the impact these artists have had on our collective, modern culture.
Chi first picked up a camera while a student at Rutgers. After honing his skills at the International Center of Photography, he landed a job at The Source, which was the definitive magazine of hip hop culture. It was here that Chi developed relationships with the biggest icons of the hip hop movement, including Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, and L-L Cool J, most of whom were not yet famous.
This work could only be at home in a LTD run, framed in the most advanced design of the YES. collection. The all-new, Asymmetrical MidBite Twin.
A short video clip of the opening night of the CHI MODU | UNCATEGORIZED photography exhibition with Snoop Dogg presented by HVW8 Gallery and Adidas in Los Angeles
Wednesday, August 22, HVW8 Gallery and adidas Originals hosted a first look at UNCATEGORIZED, an exhibition of photographs from hip-hop documentarian Chi Modu. The traveling show first opened in Berlin, but has made several global stops since. Still, this week's Los Angeles preview had special significance for the Nigeria-born, New Jersey-raised Modu, who joked that despite his East Coast childhood, the West Coast had always shown him the most love.
Sitting amidst intimate portraits of Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Nas and more, Modu was joined by Snoop Dogg, whom he first worked with when the rapper turned business mogul and show host was only 19 years old. "I wasn't there to experience it, I was there to document it. I wasn't there to judge it, I was there to capture it," Modu explained of his approach to photographing the young Doggy Style rapper and his associates.
This dedication to acting as a conduit of experiences and narrator of foreign realities is part of what makes Modu's photos so resonant, even with the passing of decades. His portrait of a languid teenage Nas perched atop a twin bed in a spartan room inside of the imposing Queensbridge Housing projects has the same composition of a Renaissance era reclining nude. However Nas' cuffed denim, collared Polo shirt and Timbs tell a different story — it's the story of the genesis of hip-hop. On a worn wooden dresser centered in the frame sits a television, video game console and stuffed teddy bear. Above the 17-year-old Nas' head, which rests contemplatively against a wall, is a bullet hole. The juxtaposition between the trappings of childhood and the imposed presence of gun violence, which is inescapable even within the sacred walls of a bedroom, is the sort of intentional tension Modu creates...
Chi Modu, the Nigerian-born and New Jersey-raised photojournalist, was the director of photography at The Source magazine during the defining era of hip-hop in the Nineties. In addition to the 30-plus covers he shot, he also captured many candid and unexpected moments of some of the genre’s biggest names, long before they were famous.
Modu began a project called “Uncategorized” in 2013, with large-scale images appearing on the exteriors of buildings in New York as a way to make his work available to everyone. The exhibit has since shifted and toured the world and on Saturday, a version of it will open in Los Angeles at the HVW8 Gallery, presented by Adidas Originals.
Alongside some iconic images of hip-hop royalty including Tupac, Biggie, Nas and ODB, “Uncategorized” also features previously unseen works from Modu’s photographic archive. The show, which runs through Sept. 23, celebrates hip-hop’s creative energy and raw, unrivaled ambition, showcasing Modu’s documentation of the legends behind the sound.
On the eve of the exhibit’s opening, where Modu and Snoop Dogg were to have a private fireside chat detailing some of the famous images, the photographer and the rapper sat down to talk with WWD in Snoop’s trailer...
Click to continue at WWD
For my kind of work I think empathy is really critical...
If you're a fan of Tupac, Notorious BIG, NWA or other American hip-hop giants of the 1990s, chances are you've seen a picture taken by Chi Modu are very high. Nigerian naturalized American photographer is known for many of the definitive portraits he has made of some of the most influential rap stars at the height of their careers.
Former director of photography at The Source , a magazine that closely followed the growth of hip-hop culture, the portrait artist opened on Thursday night in São Paulo the exhibition Uncategorized . The curatorship includes photos of rehearsals, recordings, promotions or even recording of artists' scenes during tours or in intimate moments...
The exhibition with 12 big pics of American rapper Tupac Shakur, known as 2Pac, have been hanging for over half a year in Skøyen. The pictures, according to the gallery, has a value of over 300,000 kroner.
"But these pictures have hung outdoors, and anyone could actually steal them. Are you surprised?
- We are really. Because the images have been bolted firmly. But we discussed that there is a chance that someone can destroy, tag, or steal. But you get shocked nevertheless, "says Einer Hatlo. General Manager of Featuring Spaces
The pictures were hung with very thick wires, so you had to use special tools to steal them. The gallery owners therefore believe that the theft must have been planned over time, and today it has been reported to be police.
"Now we work to follow the video tracks. There are several surveillance cameras in the area that may have captured theft, "says Tinius Greve from Featuring Spaces.
O Manos e Minas, comandado por Roberta Estrela D'Alva, recebe a cantora Janine Mathias. O programa ainda visita a exposição do fotógrafo Chimodu, que registrou os maiores nomes do hip hop, e conhece o Aparelha Luzia, um espaço cultural de resistência negra na capital paulista.
A 5 minutes discussion and tour of the exhibition Chi Modu | UNCATEGORIZED at A7 Galerie in Sao Paulo Brazil. May 28, 2018. It's in PORTUGESE...
Sitting Down with Chi Modu — Hip-Hop’s OG Photography Juggernaut
World-renowned photographer Chi Modu — most known for his iconic hip-hop snaps — continues to convey incredible stories, documenting diverse lifestyles around the world, all through the lens of his camera.
Photography and hip-hop have always been deep passions of mine, and two things I’ve always gravitated towards.
The idea of telling a story through a carefully-captured single moment in time was mind-blowing. Equally interesting was the ability to bend the rules of grammar and tell story through rhythm and poetry.
A pillar in the documentation of hip-hop history, Chi Modu comes from humble beginnings. Chi is someone who documented the hip-hop movement, nearly three decades ago, and captured iconic moments and pictures of larger-than-life personas. The legends of the game. He now continues to travel the world and document other movements and stories.
His name may not ring a bell, but his work has left a massive hand-print in the concrete of hip-hop history. A history that continues to grow and evolve daily.
In the same way hip-hop can transport the listener into a world of thought they may not have lived through or have first-hand experience of, photography is able to expose and share insight of a moment in the same way, where the viewer can appreciate the art.
Being a hip-hop head for many years, it always shocked me — the amount of people who knew of Chi Modu’s photographs, but had no idea who took them. It’s often the case, with many aspects of hip-hop and beyond, that the most important figures are often found outside of the picture.
The opportunity to interview Chi Modu came up. In a quest to delve into his thoughts about photography, hip-hop, and life in general —I took it.
Coming up on three decades in the game, you’re considered by many to be the most iconic hip-hop documentary photographer of all-time — a pioneer in your lane. What’s the most gratifying aspect of your success, aside from being able to convey a message or tell a story through your art?
I found that the camera has been an incredible tool for me to help spread the message of hip hop. Photographers have a responsibility with this skill that we have to use it to educate others and take them into a world that they might not know that much about looking at it from a distance. I find a camera takes you little bit closer and once people get a little closer to things, they tend to get a better understanding for them.
I think that brings the world together. Exposing, documenting, sharing, and showing your world opens it up to others to understand it a little better without having to live in it. I think it pushes back on some of the judgment that often comes from a distance once you get a look inside.
Along with bringing the world together, you really love to embrace new technology. How has that changed the way you work?
Well, photography is still photography. That’s what the people get a little bit confused today. Although we now have digital photography and people have camera phones in their pocket, it’s still the concept of using light to illustrate things. Photography is referred to as the art and science of painting with light. The light hasn’t changed in over a million years.
Photography still has the same core concepts behind it. Composition is still the same as it ever was. I think what technology has done for me, it’s allowed me to spread my work farther and wider and made a lot more people aware of what I’ve done.
I mean, it’s gone as far as Southeast Asia, South America, and has allowed me to reach six continents around the globe. The win is when you can use technology to expand the reach of one’s photography. Social media, especially Instagram, has made this possible at a scale never before seen.
If you’ve seen a photo of the following artists from the ’90s and early 2000′s and thought “damn…”, it’s very likely the photo was shot by longtime hip-hop photographer Chi Modu.
Tupac, Biggie, Wu-Tang, NWA, Mobb Deep, Snoop Dogg and Nas are just a few of the names captured by the renowned photographer. Having long been a photojournalist for The Source, Chi chronicled the lives of the most recognizable rappers of our time –- many of which he documented long before the fame and fortune.
We spent some time with Chi around New York City –- where most of his photos take place –- to gain more insight on his role as a hip-hop documentarian. During our time, we not only heard stories from the golden era of hip-hop, but were blessed to witness the connection and camaraderie between the photographer and his life-long friends/subjects. Just one month before the untimely passing of Prodigy, we followed Chi backstage at Mobb Deep’s last show in their hometown of New York City where the duo shared candid stories and reminisced on their past shoots together.
Watch the video above to catch a lasting look at Mobb Deep and to hear more stories from hip-hop’s most iconic photographer.
I first photographed Tupac Shakur in Atlanta, back in 1994. He turned up half an hour early, but my equipment malfunctioned and I had to send him away. I was so embarrassed, I offered to fly to whatever city he was headed to, to do the shoot there. But he didn’t mind sticking around and turned up early the next day. He did 20 press-ups and said: “Let’s go, brother!”
There were no barriers between us. He was prepared to let his guard down, so I could show the human behind the headlines. This shot was actually an outtake. After taking some pictures of him raising his middle fingers, I just started snapping away as he played with his bandana. His gaze is sensitive: he looks a little like a deer caught up in the headlights. But then we all do at the age of 23, right?...