Indisposable heroes

An photographic exhibition of hip-hop and R’n’B musicians is showing in an unstuffy, accessible venue: a Soho coffee shop.

The American Coffee Traders’ coffee shop in Soho may not be the first place that springs to mind when wondering where to go to see the latest work by a young British artist. But it’s where photographer Paul Hampartsoumian, or Paul H to his friends, has chosen to show a selection of his work from the UK and the US this month. His wittily captured images of hip-hop and R’n’B artists are wrapped like brightly-coloured confectionery around the coffee house.

Paul H is a relative newcomer to music photography, although he describes it as an extension of what he has been doing for the past few years. “I capture on film parts of the hip-hop scene I belong to. This is more than just music, it’s a way of life. Through my photography, I am a real part of it.”

He chose the ACT for his debut exhibition because, “I wanted an effortless venue, accessible to any audience without the aura you sometimes get in established galleries. This feels more like a party.” The private view of his work was just that: turntables were set up, and tune after tune reinforced the hip-hop theme.

The collection of colour photographs includes images of a number of established musicians such as Busta Rhymes, seen below “expressing himself”, Wyclef Jean, illuminated by inky blue light while cooling himself down on stage at a concert at London’s Astoria, and Erykah Badu.

Comments at the exhibition opening varied from, “You don’t usually get to see this kind of contemporary work – they are really energetic concert photos. I would have liked to have seen more,” to, “They really didn’t have a strong impact on me.”

All the pieces in the collection are untitled but each in its own way captures an essential side of its subject. Another visitor commented, “The Busta Rhymes photograph is almost portrait-like in the way it captures the personality of the musician.” Paul H adds, “It sums him up in a word. When I took the picture he just threw his head back and roared like a lion, but no sound came out. It works.”

This is an exhibition showing a collection of images in a way the artists would like them to be seen. It is sponsored by East West Records, Professional Film Company and Classic Photographic Services.

This exhibition is showing at American Coffee Traders, 86 Wardour Street, Soho, London W1 until 6 June, Monday to Saturday 9am-7pm. Admission is free. Paul H’s work can also be found at www.hiphop.com

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