Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Posts Tagged ‘dilemmas

Rappers, photo fraud, and a multimedia video what I made

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When Melanin 9 dropped his High Fidelity mixtape I was about 20, so he must have been 20/21 at the time. He’s easily still one of my favourite rappers and if you haven’t had the experience of listening to his portrayal of a city’s moral subterranea or his views on gun crime I would advise you to check out his videos for Strange Fruit and Shot. Both are pretty hardcore, but the latter is the visual equivalent of being punched through the iris. I’ve included it below:


It took me 3 years to send him the e-mail that would lead to us working together: I would eventually shoot an album cover, his family, freestyle sessions, and his slot supporting the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, amongst other things. He’s also introduced me to a lot of 90’s boom bap hiphop (check out Heltah Skeltah, Black Moon, Smif-N-Wessun for more).

I also produced the below video, which I guess is essentially a comment on my approach to representing the whole project. More and more I find myself feeling uncomfortable with the pseudo-authority that the photograph can have over its subject; not only because they are too easily seen as the definitive way to view an event/person (although perhaps less so now) but also because of the ease in which they can be passively, unquestioningly, consumed relative to other more ‘difficult’ media, particularly text. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but it doesn’t mean that those words aren’t generalising.

None of this is new obviously. In fact Mr Roland Barthes summarised the paradox of the photograph as a piece of information in 1980 when he argued that the image, when generalising,

“completely de-realises the human world of conflicts and desires, under the cover of illustrating it.”

But how does one get away from generalising? Shall I read less? Should I research more? How do I escape this nebula honestly!?

I can say from experience that I don’t feel comfortable producing an authoritative portrait of anything, and this multimedia piece that I produced in collaboration with Melanin 9 is an attempt not only to get him to comment on the way he feels rappers are represented by themselves and the media (and me), but also to undermine the authoritative guise that any photo I’ve taken has decided to give itself; particularly when I’ve been photographing him outside his estate. Good or bad, I’d be interested to know what you think of it: