About a minute and a half into the music video for Kendrick Lamar’s “LOVE.”, a scantily clad woman appears against a black backdrop, pulling pin-up poses, illuminated by a single source of light. It’s a stylish shot, and for any fans of hip hop photography, it might be familiar.
The image recalls “Outta Darkness”, a 2004-05 calendar of pin-up-style photos by Jamil GS, an influential photographer who has previously shot the likes of JAY-Z and Diddy and had his work exhibited alongside the likes of Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. As the godfather of the ‘ghetto fabulous’ style of photography that reigned supreme during the 90s and early 00s, Jamil GS pioneered a look that took hip hop culture to the next level. He was surprised when he believed he saw his signature style replicated in Kendrick’s video.
“I’m disappointed that someone whose music I respect, and with such resources, would copy my work,” Jamil GS sighs. “When another artist or peer appropriates my work, it devalues it. I have a clear signature style that has taken years to develop and situations like this, if not called out, make it harder for me to market my work.”