Lyle Owerko – The Boombox Project
Lyle Owerko is a photographer and filmmaker who has worked on a vast array of projects in his time. Most noted for his picture of the terrorist attack, Lyle’s photo was used for the cover image of Time Magazine’s September 11, 2001 issue. His current projects seek to bridge ethnic borders in a manner that documents cultural groups for the betterment of the human condition. Lyle is an avid collector of old ghetto blasters and has now crafted a superb book all about this with, The Boombox Project.
In December 2001, while on assignment in Tokyo, the photographer Lyle Owerko came across a funky old boombox at an outdoor market. He was struck by its bulk and intrigued by its link to a vanished New York of break-dancing and graffiti, and as soon as he returned home to New York he began scouring flea markets and eBay for more of them.
Exactly when the term ‘boombox’ hit the streets is not known for sure. In the United States, separtments stores apparently began using the term in marketing and advertising as early as 1983. Street slang linguists pin the term down at 1981, and define the boombox as ‘a large portable radio and tape player with two attached speakers’.
Initially, it became identified with certain segments of urban society, hence adopting epithetic nicknames, like ‘ghetto blaster’ and ‘jam box’. But as the masses began to embrace there gargantuan conglomerations of electronica, lights and chrome plated gadgetry an inherent form of portable entertainment and expression was born.
The boombox as it has evolved now an icon of popular culture, it has been referenced by rockers, poppers, hip-hoppers and graffers alike. It is a symbol of rebellion and a way to shout your message at the system.
Turn up the volume on your boombox, whatever the size, and let the capstan wheels of the tape deck drive a favourite mix-tape to life… As the defiant voice of a rock legend, Joe Strummer sang; “This is radio clash using audio ammunition…”
‘The Boombox Project’ is published by Abrams and is available to buy now.
- More from Lyle can be seen on Life + Times.