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Chi Modu

Timing is one of the key secrets to success, especially in the world of photography. Chi Modu has adopted this notion as his guiding principle. He is a master at capturing some of the most striking, original and magically serendipitous images in hip-hop and other genres, documenting some of the most memorable eras in music history.

A graduate of Rutger's and New York's International Center of Photography, Chi began working in 1990 at The Source, the definitive magazine on hip-hop culture. Music artists were still just scraping by in a genre that had yet to gain mass appeal. According to Chi, "I remember riding around LA in Puffy's VW Rabbit, and it had holes in the roof."

As director of photography for The Source, Chi came in on the ground floor of hip-hop, developing relationships with the artists when few others were paying attention, and, in the process, gaining unique photographic access. A businessman as well as an artist, Chi shrugged off large payouts for his images in lieu of copyright ownership, banking on the notion that hip hop would grow and the value of his images would grow right along with it.

During his seven-year stint with the magazine, Modu's work appeared on over 30 best-selling covers, which included images of notable hip-hop figures such as L-L Cool J, Mary J. Blige, Tupac Shakur, and Notorious B.I.G.

Beginning in 1993, record companies began to utilize Chi’s talents. His photos have appeared on albums including Snoop Dogg's multi-platinum selling debut “Doggy Style,” Method Man's “Tical” and, most recently, Tupac's platinum-selling, posthumous release “Better Dayz.” Chi’s images have graced over 10 million sold albums. As the respected photography trade publication Photo District News stated in 1998, "Chi Modu Knows Hip-Hop."

Chi’s work has appeared in many publications such as People, Newsweek, Time, The London Times, The Guardian and Vibe magazine. The high demand for his images has also extended to television and film. His photos are constantly requested by producers for music documentaries such as MTV's “Diary” and VH1's “Behind the Music” and “Driven” series.

Since appearing in the 1994 retrospective “All About Color,” Chi’s photographs have been featured in shows including the “Roots, Rhyme and Rhythm” hip-hop exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

In 1998 Chi launched his own stock photography company, Diverse Images. The comprehensive library focuses on subjects of color “and other groups that are underserved photographically,” according to Chi. It consists of over 200,000 images spanning figures in entertainment, sports, and music, in addition to documentary and lifestyle images.


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