Currently Reading: Ricky Powell’s Invisible Jazz Cigarette

What started as a selfie meme with choreographed hand signals to show marijuana solidarity has made this legendary NYC photographer a man about town.

In New York City photo-ops have become PR appearances with the Instagram obsession sweeping all five boroughs. Artists have re-invented themselves, released archives, re-published works and found new followings in a way that can get them paid.

Activity is paramount with real-time media sharing, and few are more active than Ricky Powell. His 35mm New York City photography as a younger hustler was licensed globally with Run DMC mania. As a colorful personality he always got subjects feeling open about being photogenic. The 80s and 90s were good to him. With the rise of social media he has brought his daily dilly dally to an appreciative audience. They grew up with his work, but think he’s still a hoot.

Powell unearths relics in his apartment which he refers to as “The Rick Ford Institute.” He posts them. He takes West Village walking tours with his followers. He carries a transistor radio tuned in to FM stations. He speaks openly about marijuana use, his support of it, and advocates in a way that offends no one. He’s often referred to as the “Funky Uncle.”

Which brings us to #invisiblejazzcigarette.

This hashtag accompanies Powell’s poses with his hand cocked like he is pulling on a loose joint. He gets entire groups in on the action, and in a way he owns it. Signature hand gestures like the “shhhh” sign placed in front of the mouth, if used frequently enough, can make a point across the social timeline, tag clouds and third-party mentions. For illustration of this point please check out the photographer Terry Richardson and his devotion to the thumbs up in the photos he appears in. It helps when there is a corresponding emoji to go with the public image strategy.

Selfies get double the likes because people want you to buy in to showing yourself. So we all can feel better about doing it. Now Ricky Powell is in front of the camera more than ever before. And his relevancy is greater for it.

Check his mixtape with The Goodlife! called “Uncle Sloppy’s Zooted Lay-Up Line” or his signature series suede Pumas he pulled out of the closet, it’s all being served up daily just one click away. PDA has always aimed to recreate Powell’s classic looks with point/shoot film cameras, our attempt doesn’t nearly do it justice.

“Light up and lay up,” Powell advises his fans.

For more “flickaroonies” from his job at the “frozade stand” as he describes it, follow him for the fun of it.

@thelazyhustler

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