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Who Are the Women in Hip-Hop Videos?

In a new book by Brian Finke, the photographer delves into questions about the identities of women who appear in hip-hop videos. Often nameless, the women are seen dancing or posing and their presence bestows a superlative status on the male rappers they support. Finke wonders, “What do you call the women in hip-hop videos? Are they hip-hop honeys, video vixens, video girls, models, dancers? Are they revered, oversexualized, demeaned, or empowered? Are they stars or set pieces?”

Looking for answers, Finke spent three years photographing the backstage scenes of music video shoots, getting to know these “hip-hop honeys,” as he calls them. Often professional models, the women appear in videos for artists like Jay-Z, Busta’ Rhymes, and Kanye West. In a statement, Finke described his approach to the project: “As a documentary photographer first and foremost, I was there to observe and photograph the scene taking place. These are people doing their job, from my perspective.” The work, he continues, “is grounded in the study of people–men and women–going about their day and doing their jobs. That’s what inspires me.”

The images he made, which fuse robust portraiture and documentary photography, are the subject of a new book, Hip Hop Honeys, published by PowerHouse Books, and an upcoming exhibition at ClampArt.

In the foreword to the book, cultural critic Abigail Covington concludes that the models, who willingly participate in the videos,  “are keepers of their own fate.” She writes, “A woman’s sexuality is hers and only hers to exploit, gain from, honor or preserve. What feels degrading to one woman may be empowering to another. For others, those feelings aren’t mutually exclusive. Nor are they impervious to time…These are images of women reacting to and demonstrating agency within the hyper-sexualized world of hip-hop videos.”

Hip Hop Honeys by Brian Finke
PowerHouse Books

Hip Hop Honeys
March 29 – May 12, 2018

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