Vincent Desailly’s striking new book explores the origins of Trap music in Atlanta

In his first monograph, The Trap, French documentary and portrait photographer Vincent Desailly reveals a unique personal vision of Atlanta through a series of striking images.

16 January 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

Born out of the early 2000s, Trap music arose from the south of the US, more namely, Atlanta, Georgia. A style of hip-hop, the genre can be categorised by its sub-divided hi-hats, heavy bass layers and a myriad of orchestral synthesisers often accompanied by lyrical beats. Though relatively young, over the last decade, trap has quickly become a global force of expression, one of the most successful music genres, but its origins are still relatively unknown.

It’s a subject and theme that has interested photographer Vincent Desailly for several years now. The acclaimed photographer has made a name for himself for his powerful yet candid portraiture which has captured the likes of Brad Pitt, Leonardo Dicaprio and Sylvester Stallone previously. Now, in his first monograph, The Trap published by Hatje Cantz, the documentary and portrait photographer reveals a unique personal vision of Atlanta through a series of striking images.

He was first introduced to the energy of the hip hop scene back in 2015 when the French photographer journeyed to Baton Rouge in Louisiana for a French magazine. Tasked with capturing the unique creativity of the relatively small town despite its global impact on the hip hop industry, Vincent came to discover an energy both in the visual and musical sense. “I was at the beginning of my career as a photographer,” says Vincent, “so I didn’t manage to make a real series but it definitely stayed in my mind.”


Vincent Desailly: The Trap

Though he wouldn’t call himself a “rap nerd”, it was the creative vigour of the hip hop scene that drew him to the home of trap, Atlanta. Eager to experience the localised energy of the city during this booming period of creativity, Vincent tells It’s Nice That: “I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to live in a historical cultural moment from the inside, but not in the usual major cities where everything is so loud and you can’t see it’s effect.”

He’s often wondered what it would be like to experience past music heydays. Detroit during the rise of Motown in the 60s for example or Manchester at its Britpop peak. Today, Trap music and Atlanta holds a similar relationship, its energy, its wider impact on the city and the buzzing zest it adds to its inhabitants is captured throughout the photographer’s latest book. He first ventured to the city in early 2018, spending around two weeks with a friend “seeing as much as possible” in order to “understand the environment surrounding the scene.”

Journeying back to Atlanta on several occasions, gradually assessing what he wanted to capture for the series, Vincent developed an approach of contacting people on Instagram to be photographed for the beautiful series. “I would meet them where they hang out, take a few portrait shots for them, then try to stick around to take some more documentary pictures,” reveals Vincent. Later on, he sent them the portraits free of change which often made their way onto EP covers or albums, and in turn, Vincent kept the more journalistic shots for the series.

Through an artistic weaving of place, time, musicality and striking photography, The Trap provides the viewer with an intimate glimpse into the Atlantian music scene. “The book is not supposed to be a mirror of society,” says Vincent of his evocative series, “the pictures are authentic but they are a personal vision of the reality,” he adds on the subjectivity of his lens. Over the years, he came to know the scene well; it’s fierce competitiveness and the rapid track releases imbued with the hope that it will garner more attention than the last. Vincent goes on to say, “Even though you can feel the competition among rappers, kind of like athletes, they need each other” for support and to spur each other on simultaneously. For the photographer, the Trap scene is indicative of America’s capitalist run, “even when we are talking about creativity and especially in the US.”

GalleryVincent Desailly: The Trap

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Vincent Desailly: The Trap

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

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