Raekwon & Ghostface of Wutang Clan
New York City, 1995
Photo has a 1" white border around the image.
Limited Release Print
*Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta is a 315-gram, 100% cotton paper that combines the virtues of a luxury cotton paper and a traditional gelatin baryta base (barium coating emulsion layers – for greater detail/definition). The very fine surface texture of this paper combined with the baryta gloss endows portraits with a particularly expressive character. The fine, high gloss surface of Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta exudes prestigious qualities with both look and feel.
Rae and Ghost Chill
Manhattan, August 1995
The opportunity to photograph Raekwon and Ghostface of the Wu Tang Clan came to me because the publicist at the Black Music Department of RCA called to see if I wanted to shoot on spec. Shooting on-spec means there is no official assignment. The record label and publicity department know you are a working press photographer, not on staff. They rely on your motivation to market the photo and consider it a win-win situation if you get their artist into the press.
I was familiar with the Wu Tang Clan at the time, but did not know them personally, nor did I really pay attention to who's who in Wu Tang beyond the popular members: RZA, Old Dirty Bastard, and Method Man. I knew the names Raekwon and Ghostface, but did not know of them well enough to write an article. I would have to arrange an interview with them or do research to create a full article for Thrasher, the magazine I targeted.
In my freelance world of constant networking, their popularity was not enough for me to achieve a quick sale to a magazine. An instant sale would have to be them with a more well-known artist or celebrity — and the photo wouldn't be aesthetically interesting, just colleagues in the same place, same time.
The publicist scheduled a hour for me to shoot them. I was squeezed between all their other press obligations that day.
The Photographed Moment
I met Raekwon and Ghostface at the RCA Records offices, on West 47th & Broadway. I was introduced to the guys by their publicist. We decided to go down to the street and get a few shots. I knew I only need 8 to 10 shots.
We walked out of the building and crossed the street. We were at a side entrance of Broadway's Palace Theater. The side of the building had a thick, cool layer of blackish-green paint with no lines, marks, or graffiti which was slightly covered by stairs traversing up the wall.
I’m not sure how we started shooting. It was just me and my Canon T-90 film camera. Manual focus. No filters. No lighting. No assistants. No make-up or wardrobe. Just us — young us.
Raekwon and Ghostface had just release their first duo album, Only Built for Cuban Links. Press and publicity was needed.
We spent a few minutes by the wall. I set my bag down, got my camera together. I noticed them interacting with each other. As I raised my camera, they began to act and interact with each other for each shot. Yes, we got the “Yo’ Son” picture with hands in the camera lens — along with moments of deep personal reflection, peering deep into Ghostface’s eye, the prowess of his first Jesus Pieces gold medallion. There was an even more personal, quite reflective moment of Raekwon gazing into his own image in a window.
Not the typical “YO! HIP HOP!” moments. These guys let me into their space, their moments of true self, not in their brand character. They allowed me to capture their essence, making them and that moment timeless for us all to see.
Words and photographs © T. Eric Monroe