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AIC Professor’s Photos of ’80s Hip-hop Scene to Be Featured at Sotheby’s Auction

SPRINGFIELD — John Nordell, assistant professor of Visual and Digital Arts at American International College (AIC), is receiving acclaim for photographs he took at the beginning of the 1980s hip-hop scene in Boston. Today, Sept. 15, the prestigious Sotheby’s will host its first-ever hip-hop auction, where the professor’s photos will be featured.

Among the items to be auctioned are two lots of previously unseen photographs, 42 images in all, taken by Nordell. His images are a peek into the beginnings of hip-hop with Hollywood Talent Night events with young artists including New Kids on the Block, the Almighty RSO, and DJ Rusty the Toe Jammer in the early years of what would become a cultural revolution.

Growing up in Cambridge, Nordell said photography was always his calling, and he began honing his craft as a teenager. Returning to Boston after college, he persevered, ultimately finding work as a photojournalist for Time and other prominent publications.

Nordell said it is an honor to have his previously undiscovered photos featured. “This body of work is a labor of love. These photographs represent the hundreds I shot from 1985 to 1989, documenting hip-hop culture in Boston. I believe the power of the images lies in their focused look at a single community: an exuberant microcosm of a growing worldwide cultural revolution. Many of my subjects never gained much prominence, but they remain important as early, localized representatives of a seismic shift.”

A sampling of images set to appear at Sotheby’s auction can be viewed on Nordell’s blog at createlookenjoy.com.

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