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 10 years he has had over two dozen solo exhibitions; “Men of Honor”, “A Time Before Crack”, “Pieces of a Man”, “Represent”, When Two Worlds Meet”, “Back in the Days,” and “Seconds of my Life,” which have been shown from Argentina to The Netherlands, England, Italy, Germany, France, Japan and throughout the United States.
An even longer list of group showings include Art Basel; Miami, the Brooklyn Museum, the Newark Museum, the Contact Photo Festival, the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Duke University, and the Adidas Photo Festival in Ethiopia.
Over the years Jamel has volunteered, working with a wide range organizations centered on inspiring young people in the field of photography and social responsibility. In addition, he has been a teaching artist with the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation; the Bronx Museum’s Teen Council youth program, The International Center of Photography, Friends of the Island Academy; and the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Expanding the Walls Project.
Adding to his community service he has lectured at the Fashion Institute of Technology, The International Center for Photography, The Brooklyn Historic Foundation, Haverford College and Parsons New School of Design.
Shabazz is the author of 5 monographs and has contributed to numerous others. He is presently working on a new book, titled “The Book of Life”.