Q&A: Janette Beckman on photographing the early days of hip-hop

As a part of music week on CR, we speak to photographer Janette Beckman about making album art for the likes of Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J and other iconic hip-hop artists in the 80s

Even if you aren’t a huge hip-hop fan, images made by Janette Beckman have probably made their way into your consciousness and in some way informed your opinion about the music genre. Beckman worked as a photographer in New York in the 1980s and 90s, making portraits and album art for the likes of Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Flava Flav and Chuck D.

While this body of work by no means represents the breadth of her creative output, it is celebrated for its role in documenting the rise of hip-hop and immortalising many a hip-hop legend. Beckman, along with a group of photographers including David Corio, Sue Kwon, B+, Chi Modu and Ricky Flores, are credited with shaping the visual language of hip-hop as we know it today.

We spoke to the British photographer about what drew her to hip-hop, what it was like to move to and work in New York in 80s, and why hip-hop stars today aren’t like they used to be.