The Boombox Project

Modern IDENTITY was brought in by the photographer Lyle Owerko to work on the design of his new book The Boombox Project: The Machines, The Music, and The Urban Underground. Released in October of 2010 by Abrams Image, The Boombox Project tells the story of the boombox, its role in history, and its far-reaching cultural influence. An enduring icon from the epicenter of the hip-hop, rock & roll, and punk movements of the 1970s and ’80s, the boombox has always been more than just a collection of metal, plastic, and wires–it was a means of expression and empowerment. Whether you were playing (or blasting), your music at a party, knocking about on a street corner, or simply strutting your stuff, a boombox added a prevailing swagger to the experience.

Presenting unrivaled documentary imagery from back-in-the-day next to stunning contemporary portraits of the machines themselves, as well as never-before-told memories from interviews with Spike Lee, Fab 5 Freddy, Don Letts, Bob Gruen, Rosie Perez, Kool Moe Dee, LL Cool J, DJ Spooky, and Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, among others, the Boombox Project is its own kind of gigantic mix tape that brings the impact of this movement back to life.,

Lyle Owerko is a filmmaker and photographer with a wide range of commercial and editorial clients. In January of 2010 he was named a Hasselblad Master for “representing photography at its finest.” His other awards include recognition for one of the forty most important magazine covers by the American Society of Magazine Editors, as well as honors from the New York Art Directors Club, American Photography, AIGA, the National Press Photographers Association, the Royal Photographic Society, Communication Arts, and many other notable organizations. Based in New York City, Lyle travles extensively around the world each year shooting assignments and personal work.

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We utilized the controls of a boombox (Play, Pause, Record, Rewind, Fast Forward, and Stop) as tools to break up the book into sections. Each one of these sections offers a different conceptual approach to the Boombox as a cultural icon. The quotes used throughout the book are taken from extensive interviews Lyle had with the music legends featured in the book. Quotes were designed to work together but to be independent from each other.

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In addition to Lyle’s boombox portraits, The Boombox Project features archival work from photographers such as Josh Cheuse, Glen Friedman, Ben Watts, Ricky Flores, Lynn Goldsmith, Bob Gruen, Amy Arbus, Jamal Shabazz, and Lisa Kahane. Illustrations throughout the book are done by the South African collective – One Horse Town.


Exhibitions of the Boombox images featured in the Boombox project have appeared in the Whisper Gallery in London, Colette in Paris and the Click Gallery in New York.