The Queensbridge Houses are synonymous with Hip-Hop music and culture. Hip-hop was born in the Bronx but this sprawling public housing development abutting the East River was its cradle. From Marley Marl, Roxanne Shante, and Tragedy Khadafi to Nas, Mobb Deep and CNN, history was made in the shadows of these weathered buildings. Dark Brother Rise, a new documentary film, is a glimpse into that history through the lens of Raleigh Privott aka RISE, legendary photographer and lifelong Queensbridge resident. Privott, better known as Dark Brother, takes us on a journey through three decades of Queensbridge hip-hop. The result is a layered portrait of a man and his neighborhood both past and present.
There is incredible power in a camera; it “captures” subjects, with or without their consent. It “frames,” giving the photographer control of what will be included and excluded from the narrative. A camera is beholden only to its wielder—its power dynamics flow in one direction. So it is telling that while Black American culture has long been depicted in the mainstream, rarely have Black people been the ones behind the camera. This is the context that makes Dark Brother’s painstaking documentation of life in his own community so important. He put the same effort into photographing everyday people as he did the famous names and faces of QB; for RISE it was always about preserving these collective memories.
Dark Brother Rise features never-before-seen footage of Mobb Deep performing in Queensbridge Park in 2014 as well as photos of Rakim, Nas, Big Twins, Capone, Big Noyd, AZ, Cormega, Noreaga, and Ron Artest, just to name a few.
Based in NYC, Alexander Richter is known for his street photography and his work in the music industry. His images have appeared in Photo District News, Rolling Stone, and XXL, amongst others. While Richter has shot music videos for artists before, this short film is his first documentary.
Dark Brother Rise is available now at: www.DarkBrotherRise.com
© 2021, Seth Barmash. All rights reserved.