At a time when hip-hop was relatively unknown to those residing below New York’s 125th street, French photographer Sophie Bramly was there to document the cult phenomenon on the brink of cultural ubiquity. Her insider images from decades past are now having their overdue exposure. Bramly got hooked on the burgeoning scene in the early 80s, at a party near Union Square. “I saw a bunch of guys dancing on their arms and heads,” she recalls. “The people were amazing.” Hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, legendary graffiti artist Futura and iconic musician-cum-VJ Fab Five Freddy became favorite subjects, snapped at Chelsea’s Roxy club and the Bronx River Center (a club house for Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation) between 1981 and 1984. Bramly documented the MC battles, breakdancing competitions and graffiti mural paintings spontaneously unfolding around her, at times overlapping with the downtown art boom. “As well as the hip-hop artists hanging out together you’d see Basquiat
, Keith Haring
, Kenny Scharf––even Andy Warhol and Madonna at some points,” she says. An exhibition of Bramly’s photographs titled 1981 & +
will be shown at Paris’s 12MAIL
Gallery from June 17 in conjunction with the release of a book by the same name.