By Janet Alexander.
Hip Hop artist photographer Mel D. Cole debuted his first New York City exhibition at the premiere opening of the Lower East Side’s famed menswear boutique Coat of Arms in Greenpoint, Brooklyn last night. Coat of Arms has been one of Mel’s regular retail haunts since its original opening in Manhattan in 2006. And it was from his frequent visits that he soon was friends with the store’s owner Naghman, who quickly became a fan of VillageSlum–Mel’s photography website.
While Hip Hop continues to open its backstage to its favorite photographer, COA was the first shop of its kind to open its doors to NY street fashion that reflected Hip Hop’s golden era, or as Nagman’s business partner and friend Aaron Hansen says, “we share the same vibe.” Aaron met Mel five years ago through the downtown skate scene, and was excited for Mel to have the opportunity to sell a print of one of his images for the first time ever. Wedensday’s exhibition, “A Trip Through Village Slum,” featured ten selections spanning from 2002 to November of 2013, with price tags ranging from $700 to $1200. Because both Mel and COA are style pioneers in their own right, the two collaborated on a limited edition capsule collection, which consists of a t-shirt portraying COA’s personal favorite photo from Mel–GZA and Bill Murray at SXSW–a mesh baseball jersey and a snapback cap, the revival of which COA is credited.
Using an eclectic arsenal of cameras, including a Fuji X100, Canon 5D, 50 and 40, and even an occasional disposable, Mel is self-taught, mastering an artistry of image-making that is invariably described as “raw.” From the glamorous to the gritty, Mel’s images no know bounds in telling a candid story. Visitors to the exhibit were treated to an after party at Beloved bar next door.
Bringing COA closer to their own homes–both Hansen and Naghman live just a couple of blocks away in Greenpoint–Aaron sees Mel’s exhibition as the keystone of continuing the store’s historical reputation as a hub of innovation and creative authenticity. Pointing to an image of P. Diddy, who is sitting alone in an empty living room, looking down at his phone during his infamous Labor Day White Party in the Hamptons, Aaron says, “Even if you were there, you wouldn’t have seen that, but Mel was and he did.”
Mel’s images will be on display and available for purchase at COA for the next two months.