Bruce Talamon’s Photos Captured a Golden Era of Black Music. Now, They’re Coming for Your Closet

With anything collaborative, you learn more about the person you’re working across from. What is something that you’ve taken from each other, respectively?

Chris Gibbs: I’ll start because I’m sure I’ve learned more from working with Bruce than he’s learned with me. But it’s been really incredible to work on this project. It’s something that we’ve taken a lot of time on—some of that is due to COVID, but I think most of it is because it’s something that is really important to share, and I wanted to make sure it was shared the right way. When going through the book, I really learned about story sharing. The book is huge: it’s thick and every page is a new story. Incredibly told, not only through Bruce’s pictures, but also through the kind of anecdotes that are offered. As you can already probably tell, Mr. Talamon is an incredible storyteller and he’s got a lot to share.

BT: Well you know, I’m thinking about how I discovered Union. I think I mentioned that my son was working across the street, and I’d sometimes drive by the store, and I’d always see these young folks lined up outside. I asked my son, who’s 29, “What’s going on over there, man?” And then he explained to me about the store and about what they were doing and it was something I’d never seen before, as far as how folks would line up to purchase this wonderful clothing, shoes, and stuff. I was fascinated by that, and then I did a little research. I will say that through this particular collaboration, which I’m extremely excited about, I was moved by Chris’ attention to detail. He just didn’t throw something out there. It was like, “Okay, what about this?” And it was indeed collaborative. Because I can be a pain in the ass.

CG: I wouldn’t say that, I’d just say you’ve got that attention to detail. Let me tell you the most nervous meeting I had, is when we had to present the T-shirts, the first proofs. I was just like, “Dang it, I really hope he likes these shirts, we put a lot into it.” And his first comments weren’t positive, they were like, “Hey, this is….” You know. And fortunately we had been looking at the t-shirts in the wrong light, so once we moved to the right light, [things looked good,] but your eye was incredible.

I think I’ve said this before, but at the risk of saying it again, the weight of your book and the weight of your work is not lost on me. And I’m humbled to be able to be a part of this through the T-shirts that we’re offering, and I wanted to make sure that they matched your work.

BT: Don’t be embarrassed. And I truly want to say this, there was a generosity there, all right. So, I felt very comfortable. This is the first legitimate use of my work on a T-shirt. Where someone has asked my opinion.

CG: I wanted to make sure to share him with everybody else now.

Bruce, you mentioned that your son introduced you to Union. And Chris’ kids are the coolest kids on the planet. How did having trusted younger perspectives around you inform the project?

CG: Well, there’s one photo that we chose that stuck out to me more than anything, which was Marvin Gaye in the back of a limo. I guess, because I have a 14 or a 16 year old that are listening to the worst crap ever… I’m really conflicted and I won’t digress too much, but I remember when I was growing up, whenever I put hip hop in, my dad was like, “What is this garbage?” So now fast forward 20 some years, and I feel like I’m just like my dad. But as [Gaye is] kind of laid out in the back of the limo and just the way he’s juxtaposed, I was like, “To me, that could have been a picture of Travis Scott today.” And so the reason why I really chose that photo is because I thought, although it’s Marvin Gaye some 30 years ago, it could be a contemporary artist today in the same limo. Maybe it’s a Maybach now, but … and just the way he was chilling back there, and my hope, and I’m pretty confident that that will be communicated and be appreciated to the younger community. Get that perspective by being around it. So yeah, I got a 14 year old and a 16 year old here at the house. The staff that works at the store are in their twenties, so we wanted to make sure that we were speaking to everyone.

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