If you’re hip on your theology game you’ll understand the significance of the number seven. And yeah, Christian bible text is littered with references to it, but more particular to this story is the Ethiopian/Rastafarian overstanding of the magic number. If you know reggae music, chances are that you know about Babylon. And if you know about Babylon then you definitely know about its pending (or perpetual, depending on how you see it) destruction. And they say that day’ll come when the “seven nations” of the world clash against one another. Hence, “when the seven clash.” Or, if you’re a true reggae fan, you’ll recognize the reference from Jamaican group Culture’s 1977 apocalyptic tune “Seven Clash.”
While God (Jah) may have created the Earth in seven days, Mass Appeal affiliate and renowned photographer Alexander Richter and partner in journalistic crime, Sean Stewart, travelled to Kingston, Jamaica to document the town for seven days. In conjunction with the graphic design efforts of their West Coast-based affiliate Anthony Harrison Jr. the three amigos completed a pulse check on burgeoning underground scenes by digging through vinyl at Augustus Pablo’s Rockers International; visiting up-and-coming street-fellow-turned dancehall DJ, Ice Cold, and the historic boxing lineage of the Stanley Couch Gym; among other stories.
The passion project known as Sevens Clash catapulted into gear when Alexander, who was seeking out a way to diversify his international photography portfolio hooked up with Kingston native, Sean, who had already been running his politically and artistically charged gallery in San Francisco called Babylon Falling. Alexander, a native of Maine, states that he was first introduced to the essence of Jamaican culture via the music. “As a fan of reggae music, dancehall music, before I was ever even a photographer I always had an affinity for Jamaica. The idea of it culturally.” Fast forward to his current career as a photographer, and Alexander noted that his editorial inaccessibility to the island is what lead him to seek out his own path to Jamrock. “The idea for me was the ability to throw down the gauntlet so that people would see that Alexander doesn’t just shoot hip hop and this guy can go shoot in areas that other people might be hesitant to go photograph and do it in an authentic way because of my connection to Sean.”
While most big name magazines and media outlets would likely struggle to gain access to some of the more remote hoods and characters of the Kingston scene, the journey was a direct one for both Sean and Alexander. The two tag-teamed the effectiveness of their effort by going directly to sources, rather than relying on any publicity leads for all of the zine’s stories. Sean explains it as, “We just completely circumvented the industry stuff and just went directly to the artists and people we knew.” Though he warns that the project isn’t comprehensive look at the total culture, it is indeed a genuine street view of their seven days and a variety of both the Uptown and Downtown scenes that are usually their own dichotomy themselves in terms of high- and low-brow context.
In the end, after a six month process, and the online release of all of the stories they captured, Sevens Clash zine is a “best of” compilation that forges the balance of accessibility, personal discretion, and uncensored imagery that all parties involved were happy and impressed with. “There were a lot of competing loyalties, so for me it was about restraint and that was the dope thing about being with Alexander. Trusting his sensibilities and having the images speak so much so that I could step back from it and let the photos fill in, [providing] just enough context instead of hitting people over the head with politics and long history,” Sean states. “That energy was reciprocal,” says Alexander. And the product (all 100 copies of this limited run) is clearly reflective of that.
Sevens Clash Zine out now.
Photography by Alexander Richter, words by Sean Stewart and design by Anthony Harrison Jr.
7.75” x 10.5”
40 pages, full color, laser print, saddle stitch
Edition of 100 (w/ postcard and stickers)