New exhibit in New York City gives rare glimpse into hip-hop royalty

LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- An exhibit featuring the portraits of some of the most iconic hip-hop stars is giving visitors a lesson in history through a unique lens.

"American Images" at Grimm Gallery is a collection of candid portraits of icons who have shaped our cultural landscape.

The photographer is something of a legend herself, in no small part because of the intimate and insightful pictures she ends up taking.

Dana Lixenberg has photographed Brooklyn's own Christopher Wallace, also known as The Notorious B.I.G., as well as Tupac.

"Even though some people have nothing to do with each other, for me, it's pieces of a puzzle that's the U.S.," Lixenberg said.

Lixenberg was born in Amsterdam and her first large body of work took a raw look at life at one of Los Angeles' most notorious housing projects: Imperial Courts.

The photos caught the attention of Vibe Magazine in 1993.

She was hired and would go on to work with members of hip-hop royalty.

"I had a chance to dip my toes in all of these different communities," Lixenberg said.

Some of the images on display have never been seen before. The outtakes are priceless.

"I'm basically a documentary photographer, I'm really interested in context, in the layers, the stories you don't see," she said.

From Jay Z to Lil Kim to A Tribe Called Quest, her strategy is to gently pull in her subject.

"Let them ease into a pose rather than presenting them with a pose, I'm not interested in a person's public persona per se," she said.

She is more interested in a deeper and rare peek into their world.

"It's been an honor photographing all of these people and all of the subjects I've met," Lixenberg said.

Grimm Galley is located at 202 Bowery in Manhattan. It's open Tuesday - Saturday, 11 am - 6 pm.

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