the game

Contact High: Photographer Patrick Hoelck Visits The Game on His Home Turf

In the series, Contact High: The Stories Behind Hip Hop’s Most Iconic Photographs, writer Vikki Tobak talks with those who have played critical roles in shaping hip hop imagery. They offer a rare glimpse of the creative process that went into the making of each photo.

Getting access to the original and unedited contact sheets, we see the big picture being created and can look directly through the photographer’s lens. Photographers typically don’t show their contact sheets. They’re a visual diary. Negatives on a roll of analog film allow these photographers (and now us) to see the full range of images in order to develop the money shot.

We caught up with photographer Patrick Hoelck to take us through this shoot with The Game.

South Central Los Angeles, 2004

For this early shoot with The Game, photographer Patrick Hoelck traveled to the artist’s home turf of South Central LA to capture this ethereal moody shot for Vibe magazine. Vibe’s then photo editor George Pitts (rest in power) commissioned Hoelck based on his earlier work shooting videos for some of hip hop’s best and brightest. The Santa Monica-born shooter captured this clean portrait that spoke to purity and focus. Hoelck, a largely self taught photographer, has a vast and largely unseen archive of hip hop photography which he is just starting to rediscover. His 2011 book of Polaroids is entitled Polaroid Hotel.

The Shoot

“George [Pitts] was a great man who was very loving and supportive of photographers and really respected the creative process. I had moved from New York to L.A. and always loved capturing artists in a natural setting. For this shoot, we decided to shoot The Game down in his neighborhood. We heard he had just bought an entire cul de sac in Compton with a bunch of houses and I wanted to see him in his element. I also knew if we met him at his house he wouldn’t be late. The idea was to maintain a realism in subject but a real control in lighting and environment.”

The Shot

“The Game, he was always on. This shot with the hands is pretty deep. It’s also simple and clean. I ended passing the edit over to the magazine because I was super busy at the time, but I usually tend to go back and forth with edit. If i feel like i’m being too controlling, then I pass the edit off. If I’m feeling like I’m not as in control, I edit down the shoot and only present the images I like.”

The Camera Nerd Out

“Mamiya 6×7 and a Toyo 4×5 land camera, at this point I only used the Mamiya as a back.”

The Q&A

What was your first camera?

My first camera was a Canon AE1 my dad gave to me. I shot Lollapalooza and street gangs in black and white. When I would get bored with the rock stars on the tour, I would shoot the crowed and their expressions. Digital came years later. It was next to impossible at the time to fight for film. Some clients allowed it, but very few

What do you love or miss about the analog shooting and darkroom process?

I don’t miss the smell. I remember being in the room so long that i would literally trip out at dinner parties or hangs with friends. I was way out on the chemicals, lol. Another tool of documentation, the warmth of the film lends a little mystery to some of the artists.

Tell us a bit about your creative process.

When I first started shooting I was really inspired by painters and painting, and nowadays being in my forties, I do this weird fasting from visuals where I don’t watch anything for a period of time. Just let my mind fast. And I read three or four books at the same time. Then I will start having strong visuals pop into my head. I also mix that with binge watching old and contemporary movies and get some great inspiration along the way.

Follow Patrick Hoelck on Instagram

The Contact High Project, conceived and curated by Vikki Tobak and published on MASS APPEAL, will culminate into a book and exhibition. Check out the Contact High website, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for more info.

Related Posts


Contact High: N.O.R.E


Contact High: Photographer Ricky Flores On Shooting Early B-Boys and B-Girls


Contact High: The Shoot That Made Nas Illmatic


Contact High: Photographer Jamel Shabazz On Shooting NYC, Circa 1981


Contact High: Shooting James Brown At Rikers


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