Ricky Powell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ricky Powell
Born (1961-11-20) November 20, 1961 (age 57)
Years active1985-present
Powell captured the classic Run DMC photograph in Paris 1986
Powell with two of the three Beastie Boys
Signing an autograph (Photo by Brian Nobili)

Ricky Powell (born November 20, 1961) is an American photographer. He is the author of four books. Powell is a photographer who specializes in the environmental portrait. Though Powell initially rose to fame because of his relationship with the Beastie Boys, he is now well known for his intimate photographs that have been featured in The New York Times, the New York Post, the Daily News (New York), The Village Voice, TIME, Newsweek, VIBE, The Source, Rolling Stone,[1] and many other publications.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Powell was born and raised in New York City.

Powell graduated with an AA in Liberal Arts from LaGuardia Community College and a B.S. in Physical Education from Hunter College.


Powell’s photographs focus on New Yorkers. Powell considers the relationship between the photographer and the photograph to be “a chemical connection of some sort”.[3] As the intrinsic qualities of the photograph have changed since Powell began capturing his moments, so have the subjects; he is now more likely to “photograph strangers in his Greenwich Village neighborhood than multiplatinum hip-hop acts and Downtown art stars”.[4]

Beastie Boys[edit]

Powell originally saw photography as a purple elephant; taking pictures of family and friends at random. But in 1985, when a girlfriend “played [Powell] like a soggy cannoli”, as he described in an interview with The New Yorker, he took the camera she had left at his place and vowed that “She would be mad sorry she dissed [him] like this”.[5]

In 1986, Powell ditched his job selling lemon ices out of a street car to tag along with the Beastie Boys on Run-DMC's Raising Hell tour.[6] Some of the photographs that he took while on tour became significant, and Powell gained notoriety, becoming the unofficial “fourth Beastie Boy”. He toured with the group as Def Jam Records’ de facto in-house photographer[7] on their Licensed to Ill tour in 1987 and Together Forever: Greatest Hits 1983–1991 tour with Run DMC and then again in 1992 on their Check Your Head tour and the 1994 Lollapalooza.[8] Powell is famous for being featured in the song "Car Thief" on the Paul's Boutique album, with the lyrics: “Homeboy throw in the towel, Your girl got dicked by Ricky Powell".[9]

Powell maintains a positive relationship with the Beastie Boys, most recently photographing them for Interview magazine.[10]

Rappin With the Rickster[edit]

The original Rappin’ With the Rickster aired from 1990–1996, as Powell interviewed numerous stars on the show including: Russell Simmons, Doug E Fresh, Harold Hunter, Kool Keith, Rahzel, Laurence Fishburne, and Cypress Hill.[11]

With his Public-access television show, Powell became the face of New York’s downtown party scene, connected to both musical and visual artists such as Sonic Youth, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Russell Simmons, Harold Hunter, Dondi White, and Sofia Coppola.[12]

“Rappin’ With the Rickster” often has been called the world’s hippest-ever public access TV show, as Powell gave insight into the artistic phenomena of the day, with an excess of candid footage, impromptu interviews, and a vision of Powell’s New York.[13] Powell considered the show “a time capsule of someone growing up in Manhattan during that era and being around the music scene”.[14]

A DVD collaboration with long-time friend and respected graffiti artist Brian Nobili on “Rappin’ With the Rickster”, released in 2010, was declared a must-have by Juxtapoz.[15]


Released in 1998, Oh Snap!: The Rap Photography of Ricky Powell featured 88 photos, 53 of which were in full color. Powell’s first book, “Oh Snap!” was a ten-year retrospective of some of the best known rap and hip hop artists of all time, including old school rappers Public Enemy, Run DMC and LL Cool J to some of the biggest stars of the day.

The Rickford Files: Classic New York Photographs was Powell’s second work, featuring what he considered “the real New York”, beyond the tourist glaze of Times Square and the deteriorating Greenwich Village.

Frozade Moments: Classic Street Photography of Ricky Powell is a book of postcards consisting of candid snapshots of celebrities, local luminaries, and lowlifes that offer a view of New York City. The celebrities include Madonna, Jam Master Jay, KRS-One, Frankie Crocker, Andy Warhol and Flavor Flav.

With Public Access: Ricky Powell Photographs 1985-2005, Powell celebrated two decades of capturing moments in his signature style, documenting much of the early era of hip-hop and presenting the actors, musicians, performers, and artists that inspired him, including Method Man, Doze Green, Bill Adler, Slick Rick, Run DMC, Eric B & Rakim, Keith Haring, Steven Tyler, Barbara Walters, Cindy Crawford, Eazy-E, and Fab Five Freddy. These photographs are distributed amongst graffiti splattered renderings by Lee Quinones, Ron Galella, Ron English, Phil Frost, Sam Flores, David Choe, Dalek, and others. Powell depicts a nostalgia for New York’s back-in-the-day with universal downtown cool with sentiments from Zephyr, Charlie Ahearn, Glenn O'Brien, and Zoe Cassavetes.[16]


Powell's "Frozade Moments, 1985-2003," ran at Bill Adler's Eyejammie Fine Arts Gallery in New York from July through September 2003.[17]

Powell’s “Public Access: Ricky Powell Photographs 1985-2005” exhibition was featured at the colette in Paris, the powerHouse Gallery in New York, Milk Bar in San Francisco, and Lab 101 Gallery in Los Angeles.[18]

Powell exhibited both his photographs and his signature street style at BRAVE Art, Whistler in 2006.[19]

The Ricky Powell Art Funk Explosion! was Presented by Frank151 at Sacred Gallery NYC from December 9–28, 2010, and celebrated Powell’s guest curation of Frank Chapter 43: Bug Out!,[20] which highlights his photographs and interviews with renowned street artists.

Powell's World Famous Slideshow at All Tomorrow's Parties was highlighted by Billboard.[21]


  1. ^ "Beastie Boys". Rolling Stone. September 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  2. ^ Loughlin (December 21, 2009). "Snappin' With the Rickster". Choice Cuts. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  3. ^ Weisman, Daniel (February 25, 2007). "Video: Ricky Powell". Format Magazine. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  4. ^ Weisman, Daniel (February 25, 2007). "Video: Ricky Powell". Format Magazine. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  5. ^ "Video: Ricky Powell on Street Photography". The New Yorker. January 7, 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2011. |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  6. ^ Mlynar, Phillip (March 29, 2010). "Ricky Powell's Official Guide to Rappin' With The Rickster, His Legendary '90s Public Access TV Show". Village Voice. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  7. ^ Adams, Erik (July 18, 2011). "Photographer Ricky Powell". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  8. ^ Denver, Nate. "Access Granted." Mass Appeal, Issue 35: 63-66. Print
  9. ^ Diehl, Matt (August 2011). "Beastie Boys' Original 'Fight For Your Right' Revisited: Meet Ricky Powell". Interview magazine. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  10. ^ Montgomery, James (April 20, 2011). "Beastie Boys". MTV News. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  11. ^ Penalty, Jeff. "A Slice of Life with Ricky Powell: Rappin' with the Rickster." Swindle, Issue 3: 50-53. Print
  12. ^ Mlynar, Phillip (March 29, 2010). "Ricky Powell's Official Guide to Rappin' With The Rickster, His Legendary '90s Public Access TV Show". Village Voice. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  13. ^ "Chapter 43: Bug Out!". Frank151. Winter 2010. Retrieved September 1, 2011. |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  14. ^ Mlynar, Phillip (March 29, 2010). "Ricky Powell's Official Guide to Rappin' With The Rickster, His Legendary '90s Public Access TV Show". Village Voice. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  15. ^ ""RAPPIN WITH THE RICKSTER," NOW ON DVD, NOW A MUST-HAVE". Juxtapoz Magazine. August 4, 2010. Retrieved September 6, 2011. |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Warren, Tamara. "Public Access." Anthem, Issue 18: 34. Print
  17. ^ See “Fete Work: Gadfly-shutterbug Ricky Powell has a career retrospective,” by Margeaux Watson, Time Out New York, August 7, 2003.
  18. ^ Books, powerHouse (September 12, 2005). "Public Access: Ricky Powell Photographs 1985-2005". powerHouse Books. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  19. ^ News, Whistler (April 13, 2006). "Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival News". Whistler Outfitters. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  20. ^ "Frank151 Presents Chapter 43: Bug Out! and The Ricky Powell Art Funk Explosion!". A Lesser Evil New York. November 20, 2010. Retrieved September 6, 2011. |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  21. ^ Comer, M. Tye (September 7, 2010). "ATP NY 2010: 10 Reasons It Rocked". Billboard. Retrieved September 7, 2011.

External links[edit]