· Nov. 06, 2023
Anders Jones, Textile/Surface Design ’92
The wallpaper is available from Jones’s company, Ether and Earth Design.

Anders Jones, Textile/Surface Design ’92, befriended renowned street photographer Jamel Shabazz at the openings of photography exhibitions. “Whenever we would see each other, we always had cameras,” Jones explains. “There was mutual respect there.”

In 2022, they decided to collaborate on a project, a design for the home. Shabazz gave Jones carte blanche to pull from his classic photographs; Jones incorporated 16 of them into a toile wallpaper printed on a textured linen. He called it “Back in the Days,” after a book by Shabazz from which Jones took many of the photos.

“[Shabazz’s] images allow for so much dignity and sovereignty,” Jones says.

“I wanted to create a design that celebrates how the photos documented the beginnings of what we know today as hip hop.”

— Anders Jones

Choosing among his multiple wallpaper drafts was the hardest part. In his work as a textile designer, Jones noticed that fashion designers would look at the prints in a mirror to help them choose the best one—this practice gives them a new perspective on the design and helps them notice flaws, he says. When Jones did that, the winner became clear. “It said, ‘Yes, I want to come into this world.’ The others were good enough, but that one was like, ‘Yes, I’m ready.’”

Coincidentally, the Museum of the City of New York contacted Jones at that time to request a submission for its first photography triennial, themed around the idea of home. The curator also mentioned interest in Shabazz’s work.

Jones responded, “I know Jamel, and we’re actually working on a piece.”

The wallpaper was exhibited in the triennial earlier this year. It will also be featured in a 2024 exhibition at the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College, And I’m Feeling Good: Relaxation and Resistance, a show celebrating joy in African American life.

Jones fell in love with photography during a course on photography for textile designers. “I never forgot the magic of the darkroom,” he says. “Now I always walk around with a camera.” Photo by Diana McClure.