Polo Silk’s bounce and hip-hop photos on display at New Orleans Jazz Museum | Events

The New Orleans Jazz Museum last week opened “NOLA Hip-Hop & Bounce Party: The Photography of Polo Silk,” an exhibition of pieces shot by Sthaddeus “Polo Silk” Terrell. For more than 30 years, Terrell — usually accompanied by Chelsey, his trusty Polaroid camera — has taken photos at hip-hop and bounce shows, nightclubs, second lines and Black Masking Indian Super Sundays, documenting Black New Orleans culture and life.

Terrell started taking photos in the mid-’80s and was right there — the only photographer documenting the scene — as New Orleans hip-hop and bounce came into his own, shooting portraits of musicians like Soulja Slim, Magnolia Shorty, Cheeky Blakk and Big Freedia.

Curated by the Jazz Museum and Nicole Coleman of Southern University New Orleans’ Museum Studies Program, “NOLA Hip-Hop & Bounce Party” highlights Terrell’s musician photos taken over more than 30 years. And there are photos of many musicians still with us, but Terrell says he also wanted the exhibition to honor artists who are no longer here, including the recently passed 5th Ward Weebie and Josephine Johnny.

“A lot of times once these artists pass and stuff like that, people seem to forget,” Terrell says. “So it’s like giving them their flowers again, and just letting people know we haven’t forgotten about them.”

“NOLA Hip-Hop & Bounce Party” opened last week with a party featuring music by TBC Brass Band and DJ Peewee. The photos will be on display at the Jazz Museum through April.

Terrell was born and raised in Uptown. He earned the nickname “Polo Silk” because of the Polo Ralph Lauren gear he loved while growing up and can be seen always wearing today — and “The Picture Man” can be heard when he’s out at a club or second line.

Terrell became interested in photography in high school, after being introduced to the camera in a class at the Boys Club. He says he started getting serious around 1986, taking photos at places like the teen Club Adidas on Canal Street, and Warren Mayes’ Club 88 soon followed.

“I was already in the nightclub shooting and stuff like that, but most of these [hip-hop] artists I kind of grew up with — Soulja Slim, Josephine Johnny,” Terrell says. “I had kind of built a relationship with them already because I was already set up doing event photography.”

In 2017, Antenna published “Polo Silk presents POP THAT THANG!!!” a book of hundreds of his photos of him from over the decades. And last year, several of Polo Silk photos were included in “The Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap,” a new book and CD collection chronicling the genre’s history and influence.

More recently, Terrell returned to host live events as the pandemic has subsided, including a party and photo showcase in Atlanta earlier this month. He is also launching a clothing line, influenced by the backdrops he uses when taking photos at night clubs.

“Most of this is not me. I’m a pretty good photographer, but as I tell people, most of this is about the people, the culture in the city,” Terrell says. “That’s what a lot of people talk about my photos [say]: You can see a lot of warmth in there. It’s just a testament to this city.”

Find more Polo Silk on Instagram, @polonolaphotography. More about the New Orleans Jazz Museum can be found at nolajazzmuseum.org.

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