Jamel Shabazz was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of fifteen, he picked up his first camera and started to document his peers. Inspired by photographers Leonard Freed, James Van Der Zee, and Gordon Parks, he was marveled with their documentation of the African American community. In 1980, as a concerned photographer with a clear vision he embarked on a mission to extensively document various aspects of life in New York City, from youth culture to a wide range of social conditions. Due to its spontaneity and uniqueness, the streets and subway system became backdrops for many of his photographs.
Shabazz says his goal is to contribute to the preservation of world history and culture. In the past 15 years he has shown in over two dozen solo exhibitions; Men of Honor, A Time Before Crack, Pieces of a Man, Represent, Crossing 125th Street, Sights in the City, Back in the Days, and Seconds of my Life, which have been shown from Argentina to The Netherlands, England, Italy, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, and throughout the United States.
An even longer list of group showings include Art Basel Miami, Brooklyn Museum, Newark Museum, CONTACT Photography Festival, Victoria and Albert Museum, Paris Photo, Studio Museum in Harlem, Duke University, and the Adidas Foto Fest in Ethiopia.
Over the years Jamel has volunteered, working with a wide range of organizations centered on inspiring young people in the field of photography and social responsibility. In addition, he has been a teaching artist with Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, Bronx Museum’s Teen Council youth program, International Center of Photography, Friends of the Island Academy and Studio Museum in Harlem’s Expanding the Walls Project. Adding to his community service he has also worked extensively with the Mural Arts Program in Germantown, Pennsylvania, culminating into a mural of his images which are presently on display.
Jamel has lectured at Fashion Institute of Technology; International Center of Photography; Brooklyn Historic Foundation; Museum of Modern Art; Parsons School of Design, The New School; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library; and McGill University, Montreal. Shabazz is the author of eight monographs and has contributed to over two dozen others. He is presently working on a number of new book projects and is and a series of screenplays.