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Mel D. Cole

Most of photographer Mel D. Cole’s work is done onsite at concerts and parties throughout New York City and the surrounding area. His body of work is both an archive of urban youth culture and a series of arresting compositions.

Located on a quaint street that contrasts with the kinetic energy of the nightlife he documents, Mel D. Cole’s first-floor apartment in Jersey City is his center of creative calm. In the last five years, Cole has been prolific, evidenced by thousands of photos on his Mac computer demonstrating the true depth of his work. He clicks through brilliant photographs from a recent trip to Mexico City, countless images of Japanese dancehalls and a series on homelessness.

Cole has printed little of his work to-date. He expresses some anxiety about the loss of control in the jump from digital files to photographic prints. As he explains, the images posted on his website, villageslum.com, lack permanence; he can remove them as he pleases. In response to growing demand, however, he is becoming more comfortable with printing—several large photographs cover a wall in his apartment. (He brings to my attention the absence of any concert shots.) Prototypes from his Etnies sneaker collaboration are also in plain sight. The sneakers’ most striking details are the insoles, which display Cole’s photographs.

With no prior training in photography, Cole began taking photographs in 2005, at a concert. When asked about his favorite images, he reaches for a photograph of a stage-diving Erykah Badu. He credits this early shot, caught on a disposable camera and developed at a drug store, with sending him down his current path.

By Tasha Parker, Curatorial Fellow