culture has lost a celebrated photographer who depicted The Roots on their first
album, Do You Want More. Mpozi Tolbert suddenly fell ill last week and died a
short time later due to unknown reasons. The
34-year-old, who took pictures for the Indianapolis Star, collapsed at work at
his photo desk, according to the Star. He was pronounced dead about an hour after
being taken to Wishard Memorial Hospital. An autopsy did not reveal the cause
of death at press time. "He
was a very positive lovable brother who always had a camera and a smile on his
face," veteran journalist and Philadelphia resident Tonya Pendleton told
AllHipHop.com. "sometimes when folks die their positive qualities are exaggerated
but in his case-not at all." In
addition to photojournalism, Tolbert was known as fixture in the Indianapolis
music scene as a DJ and artist with his recognizable six foot six inch frame and
dreadlocks that extended to his waist. Among those Tolbert captured in photos
were The Roots and the late music producer Jay Dee.Roots
member Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson described Tolbert as "the nicest
dude that you ever wanted to meet. He always saw the bright side of things and
always had a joke to tell," Thompson said on his website, Okayplayer.com.
influenced Thompson, who became motivated by capturing images on camera. "Mpozi
was dedicated to his life and to his art. For real, he is the sole documenter
of all that is Square Roots," Thompson said referring to The Roots original
moniker. "He was the cat that made me wanna document my travels via the camera.
All that photojournalism s*** I try to do I got from Mpozi Tolbert." Okayplayer.com
co-founder Shawn Gee cited Tolbert’s willingness to help in whatever way possible."In
1999, the point when myself, Angiee, Doug (newguy) and ?uesto were building what
would become Okayplayer.com. Mpozi was the go to guy in many clutch situations.
I mean the visuals for the beginnings of Okayplayer (photo visuals not graphics)
were probably 70 percent to 80 percent Mpozi. He always had a picture for us,
regardless of what time of the night Ang would email him, he would always come
though. Mpozi never asked for anything in return, he was just happy to help out."Tolbert
garnered various awards during his career, including two Keystone Awards from
the Pennsylvania Press Association, one for a photo essay on the AIDS quilt and
the second for a photo illustrating housing discrimination against gays and lesbians.
He established himself in the local music scene through a residency with the Crush
Star Crew. Most recently, Tolbert played with DJ Dicky Fox at deano’s vino on
was a gentle giant whose infectious laugh echoed throughout the newsroom,"
Matt Detrich, one of Tolbert’s co-workers at the Star, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"Now it is quiet in here, like a bad dream." Tolbert’s
gentle personality struck a chord with Star editor Dennis Ryerson who said the
photographer had a "big heart and a kind heart. I have seen him several times
with subjects he was photographing, and he was, with them, as he always was with
us – totally courteous, with a kind sense of humor."Tolbert
is survived by his mother Maisha Jackson; father Rudy Tolbert, stepmother Sunni
Green Tolbert; three brothers, Sadiki Tolbert, Dedan Tolbert, and Paul Robeson
Green, and one sister, Ayanna Tolbert.On
July 15, a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. at the International House,
located at 3701 Chestnut St in Philadelphia.To
view Tolbert’s photos, visit Okayplayer.com