For many nowadays, hip-hop is both throwback and soundtrack, something much of us associate with our rebellious youth.
The same is true for Annie Noelker—it’s just that for her, she’s only throwing it back a few years.
The 21-year-old emerging photographer (you may recall her work from last March’s Image Issue), was inspired by a sudden introduction to Tyler, the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt and Kendrick Lamar upon her arrival at CCAD, and since then she’s been focused on putting a finer lens on the artists of her generation.
More specifically, the ones in her city.
Noelker is going beyond the world of standard-fare music photography, putting emphasis on portraiture over promo, in the process turning herself into a versatile auteur akin to her subjects. MOUTH Magazine is her contribution to the world of hip-hop and photography, a stunning document of the city’s nascent hip-hop culture shot, written, edited, and designed by Noelker. Using her platform as an artist to delve deeper with each subject, she’s created a truly collaborative project—a mixed media mixtape of the misrepresented and often-unnoticed.
“Through imagery [rappers] are often portrayed as personas or characters,” Noelker said. “There’s no humans, mistakes, or scars.”
The daughter of a photojournalist, it’s a natural progression for the young and talented Noelker, who’s uncovered a whole subset of artists she was unaware of before MOUTH.
From Correy Parks to OG Vern to lesser known local artists like Bree the Rapper, Broke Bois, and Yogi Split, she’s created a new narrative and a “safe space,” for each to be humanized.
“I hope my photography speaks to Columbus, their place in music, their stories and what they do for this city.”
In the meanwhile, we wanted Noelker to speak more specifically about what MOUTH means to her.
You say in your letter from the editor that you wanted to visually emulate the artists. How did you achieve that? Sound and imagery are two completely different means of communication. Sound has a quality to it that I don’t think can ever properly be translated visually, and visa versa. They are different languages. They can reflect one another, but can’t properly be compared.
All of your images are in black and white. Was this to maintain equivalency between your subjects? Black and white imagery has always had extreme significance for me. It strips away the distraction and glamor that traditionally follows hip-hop photography. For me, it allows emphasis on truth and honesty.
What photographers or publications inspired you while shooting? I really admire the work of Hayley Louisa Brown. She is a portraiture photographer as well as the creator of BRICK magazine, which served as a huge inspiration for MOUTH mag. I also really love Olivia Rose and the honesty of her images and in how she approaches her subjects. I love the work of Driely S, Diwang Valdez, Julia Margaret Cameron, and Josef Koudelka.
What other Columbus-based photographers were influential behind MOUTH? I really look up to Hana Mendel, Wyze, and Kate Sweeney but the idea of MOUTH was completely my own.
We know there’s always a discussion of misogyny in hip-hop lyrics. How do you approach that as a female artist? Does this younger generation of hip-hop have a different voice when it comes to equality? Before you ask me, a white woman, how I feel about misogyny in hip-hop, firstly, ask yourself why you consider it the responsibility of the working woman to denounce male misogyny in any industry. I find myself more often asked about misogyny than the content of my imagery itself, which is not only demeaning as an artist, but entirely hypocritical. Secondly, and more importantly so, ask yourself the context in which you are asking me this question. I am white—I cannot, and should not, pretend to understand the realities faced by black artists in the hip hop community. Misogyny exists in every industry, and in all forms, should be rejected. Misogyny is not limited to those industries demonized and profited off of by white media, though we are very much made to believe it is such. This ideology is harmful, I do not wish to contribute to it.
Did you do all the interviews/images, or did you outsource some of them to other writers/photographers? Why or why not? I conducted all the interviews and photographed these artists myself, as I have, and continue to have, a very specific vision for MOUTH. I taught myself InDesign to make sure the design was exactly what I desired. It’s my baby. I spent countless hours with these artists, behind the camera, writing the interviews, and putting all the pieces together. The final page serves as a dedication to the artists. MOUTH is theirs.
You can purchase MOUTH at annienoelkerphoto.com.