Photo Courtesy of Janette Beckman
Photo Courtesy of Janette Beckman


Janette Beckman, Documentary Photographer

On a super hot day in the Summer, I stopped by Janette Beckman’s studio to record a conversation. Stepping into her spot was like entering an active archive of music and street culture. At the time, she had what looked like hundreds of photographs on the walls because she was preparing to release her book Rebels: From Punk to Dior in the coming months. One of the first things she invited me to do before our talk was previewing the book’s final version she had cued on her computer. Even though I knew her work when I saw it, as I flipped through the pages, I kept saying out loud, “I didn’t know you did that?!” she just laughed and said something like, “Crazy, right?”


Listen to Janette Beckman tell her Story


Her journey, from the raw energy of London’s punk scene to New York City’s early hip hop movement, defines being at the right place and time.

We talked about her experience arriving in New York in 1983. The city she encountered was far from the polished image it projects today. It mirrored the bleakness of Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message,” a stark backdrop for the emerging hip hop scene. It was this very grit, however, that fueled her artistic fire.

Her experience photographing for magazines like “The Face” and “Melody Maker” during London’s punk era had prepared her perfectly. Back then, she honed her signature approach: a natural style that allows her subjects to radiate in their authenticity. Her iconic photograph of Salt-N-Pepa rocking their Dapper Dan jackets in Alphabet City shows this.

The conversation wasn’t just about the past, though. Beckman’s reflections on the changing landscape of New York City, particularly the gentrification of areas like Tribeca and the East Village, were poignant. The rising cost of living and its impact on artistic communities will always be an ongoing conversation in our circles.

One of the most inspiring aspects of our conversation was Beckman’s unwavering humility. Despite her immense influence, she spoke of the importance of staying grounded – a quality evident in her collaborative approach to photography. Respect, kindness, and a genuine connection with her subjects were central to her philosophy, especially when capturing portraits.

Janette Beckman’s work is more than just photographs. It’s a chronicle of cultural eras, a testament to the power of authenticity, and an inspiration to artists of all stripes. Her dedication to her craft, coupled with her unwavering respect and humility, is a lesson I’ll always carry with me.

This short reflection on my conversation with Janette Beckman offers a glimpse of his story. However, for the full spectrum experience, try scrolling back up and listening to the entire conversation to unlock the complete story.

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