"Because I'm the guy that did Wild Style, people burden me with way too much," Charlie Ahearn says. All too frequently, representatives from today's emerging scenes ask Ahearn to pioneer their movement. It's no suprise that after writing and directing a film that encapsulates a culture as well as Wild Style did, Ahearn would be in such high demand.

30 years after his humble hip-hop film debuted (and subsequently sold out) in a seedy Times Square theater, the director is still very entrenched in the culture he helped to thrust into the spotlight. Ahearn travels the world to participate in the street art scene throughout Europe, a phenomena he likens to the subway car era of graffiti. Only, you know, slightly more legal. And, back in New York City, Ahearn still regularly attends Zulu Nation events and Rock Steady anniversaries. 

Last month, the former castmembers of Wild Style reunited for an anniversary celebration at East River Amphitheater, the site of the film's iconic final jam, a gathering Ahearn likened to "a big giant family clambake. It felt very personal."

To celebrate the film's milestone, Ahearn shared his personal photos, many of which are unreleased. The images act a time capsule, offering a view of a time and place Ahearn himself injected into our imaginations three decades ago.

Lest you get nostalgic, Ahearn urges us to appreciate the culture at present as it evolves. “Just because it’s happening," he says, "we shouldn’t take it for granted."

Words by Shanté Cosme
Photos by Charlie Ahearn

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