by Ben Watts
Big Up might just be the raddest personal scrapbook we've ever seen. Formed as a collage of photographer Ben Watts's snaps and personal mementos, Big Up fuses hip-hop, boxers, street punks, supermodels, plenty of tattoos, a whole lot of rope chains, hand-written notes and a bric-a-brac like concert ticket stubs to create a journal that sure beats our middle school diaries.. Fascinated by the faces and energy of New York’s street culture, Big Up is an impressive portrait of America’s past urban youth culture, collected over a period of 12 years by one of the fashion industry’s brightest photographers: Ben Watts. In regard to the book’s title, Emil Wilbekin explains, “Big Up is a Jamaican expression used in dancehall music to give respect.” Watts’ work does just that: paying total homage and respect to his subjects by matching their cool, edgy aesthetic with stylized pages that fuse fashion photography, hip-hop culture, sharpie drawings, ticket stubs, tape, and other mixed media to create a collage of images that are not only a visual diary, but a close examination of what it means to be young today.