RIP, Ricky Powell, The Original Lazy Hustler and Legendary NYC Street Photographer
One of the great legends of NYC street photography and culture, the "Lazy Hustler" himself, Ricky Powell, died today at the age of 59. The iconic photographer was best known for his association with the Beastie Boys in the 1980s, as well as countless shots of hip-hop and NYC culture in those crucial days. Powell was also a valued editorial contributor to Juxtapoz throughout the decades, so the loss is both historical and personal.
There are too many memories of Ricky Powell to share, and so many came before I even got a chance to meet him in person. I remember his Paul's Boutique centerfold and a Public Enemy photo hanging in my house, but an early assignment to photograph and interview Ryan McGinley for the magazine back in 2006 is etched in memory. Ryan, himself achieving rapid acclaim at the time, was so excited to have Ricky come to his studio, and Ricky, in turn, was excited at the prospect of a little love and respect from the next generation of NYC photography. They talked about Ricky's legendary public access television show Rappin’ With the Rickster and the art of the spontaneous... I remember transcribing that interview and honored to be documenting a passing of the torch.
A first "business" trip for Juxtapoz involved interviewing Ricky in the summer of 2007, incidentally, on probably the hottest day of that year. We kicked back at a restaurant on Charles Street in the West Village, where he related his life story, from public school to the Beasties to seeing Andy Warhol and Basquiat on the street, and everything in between. Back at his apartment, he sifted through his disorganized but landmark slide collection. Those lucky enough to catch his epic slideshow presentation experienced a once in a lifetime kind of storytelling, throbbing with the lifeblood of NYC. He was the pulse, the troubadour of the times.
He was difficult and great. He was a legend who hung with the legends, immortalizing a certain era of NYC we may never see again. His last appearance in the magazine was a great 2013 issue curated by Joey Garfield honoring MCA and the Beastie Boys, so, of course, Ricky had to be part of it. Just look at this portrait taken by Joey—Ricky, on the ground, Joey turning it upside down, perfectly encapsulating Ricky's whole persona, Ricky, who captured the raw energy of youth, who knew exactly where to be. We’ll miss the chance encounters with him, but the photos will stand the test of time.
Rest easy, Lazy Hustler. —Evan Pricco