Credit: Contributed

On the evening of Dec. 8, the audience at Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture were taken down memory lane as one of this generation’s top Black photographers, Jamel Shabazz, presented his most recent book, “Pieces of a Man.”

“My focus was both young people and those that were downtrodden,” he said. “Gil Scott-Heron, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Phyllis Hyman, Philadelphia International Records, Gamble & Huff, what they did with that record label really inspired me. Before I picked up the camera, it was the music that fed my mind and gave me a sense of consciousness.”

He explained how his father introduced him to the art of photography when he was a 15-year-old in Brooklyn’s Redhook projects, and how he then followed in the footsteps of several photo journalists who preceded him: Phillip Jones Griffith, Tim Page, James Van Der Zee.

“Leonard Freed’s book ‘Black In White America’ opened me up,” he said. “The Black Arts Movement, I knew it was a very powerful force. The music fed me and my love for the community inspired me. At 16 years old, I decided I wanted to aspire to be a righteous man.”

He then detailed how he felt the importance of visually capturing the scenery as the torrent crack epidemic engulfed the Big Apple.

“My work is visual medicine,” he said. “It’s not just photography. It’s meant to heal.”

Moderator Akintola Hanif said, “A lot of people went from being notorious stick-up kids to being righteous through the Five Percenters. Can you explain their influence?”

Shabazz responded, “‘Roots’ [the miniseries] came out in 1977, and people wanted to know more about themselves. The gods came and said, ‘You’re not a nigger. You’re a king. You’re a god. And that resonated something in me. They said we should eat right and elevate our community, and I just wanted to be righteous and positive.”

For information, visit http://www.jamelshabazz.com/.