Did you know in Germany, the surname Richter is just like Smith in America? You know…prevalent, all over the place, and far too common; sort of like “professional” photographers these days. This is all kind of ironic, considering Alexander Richter is far from your run-of-the-mill man behind the lens. The Maine raised and New York based photographer/filmmaker is responsible for some of the most iconic portraits in hip-hop to come out in recent years. He is also equally talented on the film-making side of things, having co-directed three videos for Action Bronson’s fresh, but budding career.
But what exactly makes his images any better or different than the kid in class with the photo blog everyone talks about, or the Instagram aficionado posting pics of artists smoking blunts backstage, or anyone with a white backdrop? What makes Alexander Richter stand out? I recently had the chance to talk with the man himself, sharing a great conversation, while answering those very questions in the process. We talked about lots of things: Illmatic, a photographer’s personality, Brooklyn vs. Queens, spelling out Alexander instead of Alex, and even Maine fishermen. But what stood out as a glaring reason behind Alexander’s rise to the upper echelon of a rampant and never-before-seen number of professional and amateur photographers, is his gift to define a moment.
Alex grew up an only child, raised by a widowed mother due to his father’s death when he was just fifteen months old. Unlike most American kids, he spent his summer vacations away from Maine at places like Frankfurt, Germany and The Basque Country of Spain, the respective places of origin of his father and mother, and another piece of Alex’s background that makes him unique. In more recent years, Alex lost his mother to a long bout with cancer, one of the main reasons why he moved back to the East Coast from the Bay Area of California some years back. It’s apparent that Alex is no stranger to the blessings and tragedies life offers us. These experiences, matched with a love for hip-hop you’d find hard to match, have attributed to his knack of not just visualizing, but more importantly, feeling a defining moment; something he has only recently translated onto a lens.
It’s why in the past four to five years he’s been working professionally, he’s had the presence of mind to do a visual story called The Internets on the key members behind our generation’s elite A&R class of influential hip-hop bloggers such as Eskay from Nahright, and the opportunity to shoot some of the most respected veterans and up-and-comers to grace a mic, as well as photograph the last photos ever of the legendary Baseline Studios. It’s one thing to have the technical skills to frame a great image, but it’s something different to be able to recognize past the visual, understand your surroundings beyond what’s in front of the camera, and have the ability to craft a complete story in a single moment.
I realized it’s pretty hypocritical to continue to describe Alexander Richter’s talent without visuals. Instead of pressing on, we asked Alex to share with us eight of his favorite photos and brief stories behind each, to give a glimpse into his mind and creative process. Each of these photos are Hasselblad film scans and have never before been published. Thanks to Alexander Richter for sharing these moments.
In the fall semester of 2006, Student Hip-Hop Organization was founded at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. Since then, it has branched to surrounding universities and has played an integral part in Virginia’s hip-hop scene while cultivating the minds of their campuses and communities.
The organization is known for its quality, independent spirit, and most importantly, authenticity. It has become an institution and creative platform for students and artists to gain experience and find opportunity in their individual passions. SHHO strives to promote higher learning through hip-hop.
The organization has selectively worked with the best up-and-coming artists, hip-hop legends, like-minded companies, and passionate student – talents all who have established SHHO as an organic uncompromising brand.