Big Pun & Son on the steps of their home.
South Bronx, Summer 1996
I first met Fat Joe in 1994. I was on one of my few actual magazine assignments. As a freelancer, the majority of what I photographed was not assigned work by a magazine or record label. I pursued any and all basic opportunities because there were magazines that would buy my work on spec. (Spec works like this. If the editor can find a way to get your picture into the magazine, then they will pay you to use your image once. You still own the rights to the image after publication).
The Fat Joe assignment came via The Source magazine's Photo Editor, Chi Modu. My task was to “meet Fat Joe in the South Bronx; go with him to take pictures of a mural he and the Tats Crew painted.”
I made my way to the South Bronx, met Fat Joe, and got the photographs of the mural. Then we just hung out. We didn’t talk about music, life in South Bronx, or being a famous rapper. We just hung out, kicked it, and at some point, in the evening he took me back to the subway and told me, “Be careful — it’s dangerous around here.” I would have never known that. Seriously. I did not recall seeing anything that raised concerns.
After that day, every so often, Fat Joe and I just hung out. No industry b.s., no camera, nothing.
Fast forward. Two years later Fat Joe asked if I would take some pictures of him and his crew, Terror Squad. I said sure, the same response I would give without thought if you asked to borrow my phone charger.
The Photo Moment:
The day I was to photograph them, either Fat Joe or Big Pun was doing some sort of interview with a rising music video station called The Box. There was no grand plan as to what or how we would shoot. There was no designated end goal, beyond giving Fat Joe some pictures for himself and his friends.
The day of the shoot, I drove myself and three friends from New Brunswick, up to the South Bronx in my 1990 Plymouth Horizon. It was a 1 hour, 40-minute drive. No GPS. No mapquest. Very basic cellphones (you could make and receive phone calls).
The plan was to meet on the block where Big Pun and his family lived. We arrived early, walked around Pun’s block. It was a very nice neighborhood. Trees, space, sun.
Twenty minutes later, Fat Joe arrived right on time in his big-body Mercedes Benz. Big Pun jumped out; his school-aged son, Christopher, ran from the house to greet him. We all casually walked toward Pun’s house.
By this time, I took a few pictures, more observing shots than end-products. A look of the neighborhood, my friend playing with my other camera. I just looked around through my camera and randomly took pictures. No real intent within each shot.
A moment or so later I walked near the front steps. Pun was seated on the step in front of his porch, on the wireless house phone. Christopher came out of the house holding his father’s Godfather hat, knowing his father liked to wear that particular hat in photo shoots. Pun continued his phone call. His wife at this point was at the doorway, behind the screened door, looking toward Pun's and Christopher’s backs.
Pun finished the phone conversation. I could sense it was related to business and finances. He set down the phone, smiled, then leaned over to kiss his son as thanks for bringing his Godfather hat.
Later that afternoon, we met up with Angie Martinez as Fat Joe, Pun, and Angie were interviewed by The Box music TV network.
Photo has a 1" white border around the image
Limited Release Print
(black and white)
Photo is printed on Silver Gelatin Archival Fiber-Base Paper
*Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta is a museum quality, 310-gram silver gelatin (silver halide), black & white fiber paper that creates beautiful, archival, exhibition quality, black & white prints with superior tonal range, durability, and resistance to fading.