Represent Brings Years of Iconic Hip Hop Imagery to the Capital


The Smithsonian's Center for Africa America Media Arts (CAAMA) third exhibition highlights the historical figures, social movements and creative moments in Hip Hop captured in photos and objects from the museum's permanent collection. The show, titled Represent: Hip-Hop Photography, explores four themes, identity, creativity, activism, and community through the lens of DJs, MCs, breakdancers, graffiti and more. Curated by Rhea Combs, Represent celebrates hip-hop and it’s ability to provide an outlet of expression, whether it be social justice, self-empowerment or cultural awareness. After acquiring Bill Adler’s Eyejammie collection, CAAMA will be showcasing over 400 iconic photographs from 60 artists focal to the collective memory and history of hip hop, including big names such as Jamel Shabazz, Al Periera, Charlie Ahearn, and Janette Beckman.


Paired with objects from the museum’s archive, the photographs illustrate how hip hop was born out of the decades previous to it’s Bronx origin. An example of this can be seen as a portrait of Queen Latifah is hung alongside a familiar artist from a different decade, 1920s blues singer Gladys Bentley. The show’s pairings emphasize how the foundational elements critical to the African American experience naturally progressed into the hip hop culture that is celebrated today. From photographs of OutKast and Nas to spray cans and Nike’s, curator Rhea Combs impactful comparisons will be shown in DC until May of next year. 

Words: Paola de Oliveira
Photography: Janette Beckman, Al Pereira, Danny Clinch