Geo, New Artist-in-Residence at Town Hall Seattle, Launches Photography Project
'We are not photographers. We are rappers. With cameras'
Simon Thwaits Special To The Skanner News
February 19, 2013You may have heard Geo’s music as half of the Seattle-based hip-hop group Blue Scholars, but now he’s also working in photography for the “Rappers W/ Cameras” project and is the artist-in-residence at Town Hall Seattle.
Geo is short for Geologic and his full name, George Quibuyen, but he is also known as Prometheus Brown.
Another local rapper, Thig Nat (real name Gathigi Gishuru), of The Physics, founded the project with Quibuyen, which includes both a photoblog at rapperswithcameras.tumblr.com and the publication of photo zines with the same title.
“It goes back to when The Physics had a studio in the old OK Hotel,” Quibuyen told me over the phone, talking about when Blue Scholars were working on some songs with The Physics. “During that process Thig and I would always bring cameras around.”
They also took in the First Thursday Seattle Art Walk in Pioneer Square and took inspiration from how music and visual art were happening at the same time. Eventually, Blue Scholars and The Physics got a different studio together and started throwing parties there for the “Rappers W/Cameras” project.
“We are not photographers. We are rappers. With cameras,” they write on the Rappers W/ Cameras Tumblr.
Indeed, Quibuyen has quite the history as a rapper. He started the group Blue Scholars with fellow student Sabzi (real name Saba Mohajerjasbi) as an undergraduate at University of Washington. They have released several EPs and three full-length albums: a self-titled debut in 2004, “Bayani” in 2007 and “Cinemetropolis” in 2011.
In addition to their recorded work, Blue Scholars have also played at festivals such as Bumbershoot and Sasquatch, as well as hundreds of other shows. Quibuyen is also a member of the hip-hop group The Bar with Los Angeles-based rapper Bambu.
Although the connection between music and visual art may be seen most clearly in Blue Scholars’ most recent release, “Cinemetropolis,” which also includes a collection of short films to go along with the music, photography and rap have always been related for Geo.
“All art comes from the same impulses: to describe, to document, to emote, to mythologize,” Quibuyen wrote in a recent essay for Seattle’s City Arts magazine. “I can’t listen to the rap I grew up on without seeing a photograph in my head.
“So when someone asks me when I’ve become immersed in photography, I tell them that my music - and the music that molded me - would be nothing without it,” he said.
Photographs for “Rappers W/ Cameras” are also related to music in a very literal way: Many of them include people involved in the Seattle hip-hop scene, and some other rappers are beginning to get involved in the project.
“We’ll hand a rapper friend of ours a point-and-shoot camera loaded with a roll of film,” Quibuyen said.Although this is something Thig and Geo have only recently started doing, rappers Bambu and Khingz have already gotten involved.
The public will have a chance to see “Rappers W/ Cameras” work live on March 21, when Town Hall Seattle hosts an event called Scratch Night: Geo: “Rappers W/ Cameras” as part of Quibuyen’s residency, according to the venue’s website. The event will include a photo exhibition and a musical set from Quibuyen, The Physics and others. It will also function as the launch event for the second edition of the “Rappers W/ Cameras” zine.
The first edition of the zine was limited to 100 copies and sold out in less than 24 hours online. The second edition will be “something in between a zine and an actual book,” Geo said, whereas the first was “very DIY-style, stapled on Xerox paper.”
The second “Rappers W/ Cameras” zine will also be more focused on the Seattle hip-hop scene than the first.
More information about Quibuyen’s residency at Town Hall Seattle and Scratch Night: Geo: “Rappers W/ Cameras” event can be found at townhallseattle.org. “Rappers W/ Cameras” work can be viewed at rapperswithcameras.tumblr.com.
Simon Thwaits is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory