Legendary Photographer Joe Conzo’s Collection Finds Home at The Cornell University Hip Hop Collection

Images by Joe Conzo


Coming 2013! The Cornell Hip Hop Collection is the proud home of the archive of photographer Joe Conzo, Jr., featuring more than 15,000 of his negatives and prints. Called “The man who took Hip-Hop’s baby pictures” [link] by the New York Times, Joe Conzo captured images of the South Bronx between 1978 and 1983, including early hip hop jams, street scenes, and Latin music performers and events.

In 1978, while attending South Bronx High School, Conzo became friends with members of the Cold Crush Brothers, an important and influential early Hip Hop group which included DJs Charlie Chase and Tony Tone and MCs Grandmaster Caz, JDL, Easy AD, and Almighty KayGee. Conzo became the group’s professional photographer, documenting their live performances at the T-Connection, Disco Fever, Harlem World, the Ecstasy Garage, and the Hoe Avenue Boy’s Club. He also took pictures of other Hip Hop artists and groups, including The Treacherous 3, The Fearless 4, and The Fantastic 5.

These rare images capture Hip Hop when it was still a localized, grassroots culture about to explode into global awareness. Without Joe’s images, the world would have little idea of what the earliest era of hip hop looked like, when fabled DJ, MC, and b-boy/girl battles took place in parks, school gymnasiums and neighborhood discos.

Joe’s historic images are being digitized by Boo-Hooray Gallery in New York City under the supervision and training of Cornell University Library’s digital production team with funding provided by Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences Digitization Program. After scanning is complete, the physical negatives will move to Cornell’s Rare Book and Manuscript vault and the Hip Hop Collection will make the images accessible online for research and scholarly use.

Joe continues to photograph Hip Hop and other music performers today. His photographs have appeared in The New York Times, Vibe, The Source, Hip-Hop Connection, Urban Hitz, Esquire, and Wax Poetics, to name only a few. His work has also been featured in several books and exhibited all over the world, including: Cornell University, London, Japan, Germany, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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