RICKY POWELL at the Ingram Gallery (49 Avenue Road), to May 25, reception and slide show tonight (Thursday, May 11), 6-8 pm. 416-929-2220, www.ingramgallery.com. Rating: NNNNN
Part-time New York cable television personality and full-time sneaker addict Ricky Powell may still be best known as the fourth Beastie, but the perennial b-boy is also an ace celebrity photographer whose behind-the-scenes snaps of emerging rap stars of the mid-80s like Run DMC, LL Cool J and Public Enemy inspired the legendary Fab 5 Freddy to dub Powell "the Weegee of hiphop."
Some of Powell's proudest pictorial achievements over his patchy 20-year career have been artfully messed with by his graf-bombing buddies and collected in the entertaining coffee-table book Public Access: Ricky Powell Photographs 1985-2005 (powerHouse Books), a selection of which will be on display in two spaces at the swank Ingram Gallery in Yorkville.
You've got photos of everyone from Barbara Walters, Andy Warhol and the Coppola clan to Eazy-E, Jam Master Jay and two dudes dozing on a park bench.
"I like 'em all," says the shooter when asked which ones still resonate for him. "That Slick Rick image, and that Keith Haring piece is nice, and that one you mentioned with the guys on the park bench, Sophisticated Bums, is a good one.
"I just ran into Matthew Broderick, who I grew up with in the Village, and gave him a copy of my book. I can see him cracking up at that photo. But really, my favourites are the shots from the early to late 80s, New York's PG days pre-Giuliani when the shit was still authentic. But that's gone now. Giuliani killed it. The neighbourhoods have all changed. New York just caters to the rich now, and the rich got bad taste."
Don't expect him to spin old-school hiphop or present a sneaker fashion show at his opening.
"Nah, you're gonna get the world-famous Ricky Powell slide show. I'll get a little zooted and go back in time and make some naughty comments about the people in my pictures. Everyone enjoys my blunt honesty, but I think when I exaggerate they like that even more. It's all in good fun."
Rumour has it he's giving up the old-school Minolta SLR to go digital.
"I just went digi and I love it. It's definitely a revolutionary time in my photography career. It's compact, with a video recorder built in. I've got, like, 50 film rolls at home waiting to be developed, so there's probably a couple of books right there.
"I'll unearth them when I hit the big time, which could be soon. I can feel it. The real money is in television, and I got this regular feature now for ESPN2's It's The Shoes, hosted by Bobbito. It's pretty funkular."
Gallery exhibits and the minute-long spots for Bobbito's show can't be enough to keep him in limited-edtion purple suede Puma high-tops. But the Rickster has his own moonlighting strategy.
"Dog walking. Sarah Jessica Parker is one of my clients. She has a poodle-chihuahua mix, and I also walk Sally Kellerman's great Dane, but that's it on the celebrity tip. The rest are old bohemians who don't want to go out in the daylight."
But does he stoop and scoop?
"Hell, no, I don't pick up after them. While the dog is taking a dump, I just keep walking and smoke some weed. Hey, it's all organic."