Born and raised in New York City, Powell graduated with an AA in Liberal Arts from LaGuardia C.C. and a B.S. in Physical Education from Hunter College. His work has been published in The New York Times, the New York Post, the Daily News, The Village Voice, Time, Newsweek, VIBE, The Source, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He currently lives and works in the West Village.
The Beastie Boys
Powell first fell into photography in 1985, at around the same time he connected with the up and coming Beastie Boys. At first he just hung out with them and went to a few of their gigs. Then when he heard they had gone to perform in Florida with Run DMC for the Raising Hell tour, Powell quit his job as a Frozade vendor and joined them on the tour bus. He shot a few photographs that became significant and was subsequently brought along on the License to Ill tour in ‘87 and Together Forever tour with Run DMC and then ‘92 Check Your Head tour and the ‘94 Lollapalooza. Powell became known as Def Jam’s unofficial chronicler and famously as the alleged fourth Beastie Boy during the group’s Licensed to Ill and Paul's Boutique era. He was even featured in the song ‘Car Thief’ on the Paul’s Boutique album: “Homeboy throw in the towel, Your girl got dicked by Ricky Powell."
Rappin’ with the Rickster
The original Rappin’ with the Rickster aired from 1990—1996, Powell interviewed numerous stars on the show including: Russell Simmons, Doug E Fresh, Harold Hunter, Kool Keith, Rahzel, Laurence Fishburne, and Cypress Hill.
Oh Snap!: The Rap Photography of Ricky Powell (St. Martin’s, 1998) With 88 photos, 53 in full color the book is a ten year retrospective of some of the best known rap and hip hop artists of all time, including old school rappers Public Enemy, Run DMC and LL Cool J to some of the biggest stars of the day.
The Rickford Files: Classic New York Photographs (St. Martin’s, 1999)
Frozade Moments: Classic Street Photography of Ricky Powell (Eyejammie, 2004) consists of candid snapshots of celebrities, local luminaries, and lowlifes that offer an amusing view of New York City. The celebrities include Madonna, Jam Master Jay, KRS-One, Frankie Crocker, Andy Warhol and Flavor Flav.
Public Access: Ricky Powell Photographs 1985-2005 (Miss Rosen Editions, 2005) in his by now signature style, Powell documents much from the early era of hip-hop and presents the actors, musicians, performers, and artists that inspired him, including Method Man, Doze Green, Bill Adler, Slick Rick, Run DMC, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Eric B & Rakim, Keith Haring, Sophia Coppola, Steven Tyler, Barbara Walters, Cindy Crawford, Eazy-E, and Fab Five Freddy amid graffiti splattered renderings by Lee Quinones, Ron Galella, Ron English, Phil Frost, Sam Flores, David Choe, Dalek, DR. REVOLT, DAZE, SEEN, KAWS, JEST, and HAZE. He depicts a nostalgia for New York’s back-in-the-day with universal downtown cool with sentiments from Zephyr, Charlie Ahearn, Glenn O'Brien, and Zoe Cassavetes.
Colette, Paris: August 29-October 1, 2005The powerHouse Gallery, New York: October 14-November 11, 2005Milk Bar, San Francisco: December 9—26, 2005Lab 101 Gallery, Los Angeles: January 13-February 13, 2006BRAVE Art, Whistler: April 14—23, 2006Ingram Gallery and Uncle Otis, CONTACT Photography Festival, Toronto: May 11-May 25, 2006