Ricky Powell, the renowned New York hip-hop and street photographer who worked closely with the Beastie Boys, has died at the age of 59.
Powell’s manager and business partner Tono Radvany confirmed his death from heart failure, saying: “I just want to let everybody know he was a very special man, and he will be sorely missed.”
Powell was well-regarded as both a portrait and street photographer, and notably worked with the likes of Andy Warhol, Madonna and Run-DMC during his storied career. He once described himself as “an iconic photographer, by accident” taking “pro photos on a hang-out tip”.
The photographer’s close relationship with the Beastie Boys began when he toured with the group and Run-DMC back in 1986, which led to subsequent opportunities with the emerging Def Jam label.
Powell was immortalised in the Beastie Boys song ‘Car Thief’ with the lyric “Homeboy, throw in the towel / Your girl got dicked by Ricky Powell“, while he also appeared in the group’s video for ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)’.
The photographer published a number of retrospective collections of his work, including Oh Snap!: The Rap Photography of Ricky Powell and Public Access: Ricky Powell Photographs 1985-2005. He was also the subject of the 2020 documentary Ricky Powell: The Individualist.
Tributes to Powell are being paid following the news of his death, with the likes of LL Cool J, Questlove and Q-Tip all paying their respects to the photographer on social media.
Rip 2 my man Ricky Powell. So NYC official… the parties when he would rock the slides.. the jokes and most importantly his capturing of life ?? pic.twitter.com/qhinT9a10S
— QTip (@QtipTheAbstract) February 2, 2021
rest in peace Ricky Powell.
— el-p (@therealelp) February 2, 2021
I have so many Ricky Powell stories . He used to call me Al-Skadal lol . What a guy. He will be missed. Smoking in your honor . ??
— Alchemist Type Beat (@Alchemist) February 2, 2021
RIP Ricky Powell. pic.twitter.com/AT7njTDTAc
— ItsTheReal (@itsthereal) February 2, 2021
#RestInBeats The Rickster aka RICKY Powell of course to the right of Clyde Frazier was the quintessential New York Cityer , iconic B Boy and the ‘freezer of great NEW YORK moments and figures’ as a photographer. He shot with authentic ease and NYC swag before the popular term pic.twitter.com/8omwjYvRXc
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) February 2, 2021