Oct 32020
 archive : 2020

Black Hollywood: Here Before Now

Kwaku Alston

Kwaku Alston

What does today’s Black Hollywood look like through the lens of a seasoned Black photographer?

Presenters: Kwaku Alston

Location: Online

Presented by:

  • Leica Camera

What does today’s Black Hollywood look like through the lens of a seasoned Black photographer?

What does it mean to be positioned as a standard bearer or gatekeeper of sorts, when it comes to the creation of imagery that will ultimately be used to sell to and be relatable to diverse audiences?

What is the view from the intersection where deep experience, sweat equity, and professional growth meet the demands of cultural commerce and the institutions that still hold sway in determining which photographers get which assignments? A photographer of color in Hollywood is at the crossroads of commerce, art, and cultural identity brand building.

How do I choose to represent myself, a person of color, within the context of commercial photography and advertising?

The emerging black aesthetic is grounded in dynamic and debatable notions of black authenticity and cultural relevance.

I will present images that span a 25 year career that has visually contributed to the black narrative in Hollywood. Portraits and editorial work from Hollywood glossy magazines to key art for movie posters, and rare behind-the-scenes images of day to day Black Hollywood. Additionally, I will share some of the insights and stories behind the imagemaking process.

Presenter Bios

  • Kwaku Alston

    Kwaku Alston

    Kwaku has photographed some of the most famous faces of our time–from Oscar® and Grammy® winners to Barack Obama and the First Family. His many and diverse clients include The New York Times MagazineTIME, and ESSENCE Magazine, global brands like Amgen, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, Target, and Verizon, and media giants such as Universal Studios, Disney, Amazon, Sony Music, and ESPN. His portraits have a fresh, unaffected feel, and yet they celebrate the extraordinariness of his subjects, striking a balance between contemporary documentary photography and classic celebrity portraiture.

    After graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Kwaku launched his career in New York City, where he began shooting for major magazines and ad agencies while in his early 20s. Today he is based in New York and Los Angeles, and his photos have appeared on everything from movie posters to the covers of best selling books, and in advertising spreads for international brands such as Apple and HBO. Kwaku has also partnered with a variety of charities and nonprofits, including the Design-A-Cure Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, the Black AIDS Institute, and the Smiley Faces Foundation. Giving both his work and his time, he traveled to Ethiopia to document a shoe drop by TOMS Shoes, which donates footwear to children in need worldwide.

    Kwaku’s world travels continue to inform his work, and reminds him that curiosity, encouragement, and sincerity are universal languages. As the director of photography on a documentary titled In Search of Voodoo, he has made multiple trips to West Africa. He is inspired to bridge still photography and filmmaking to tell great stories.


  • Leica Camera

    Leica Camera

    Ignite your passion for photography with Leica Camera at Photoville

    Discover the allure of Leica photography at Photoville through curated photowalks complemented by a Leica on Loan program. From action photography to environmental portraiture, you’ll experience Leica photography and guidance by acclaimed Leica photographers. 

    Leica Camera is founded on a tradition of optical excellence and a conscious focus on the essentials of exquisite image making. For over a century, the brand has motivated visual storytelling through the quintessential union of craftsmanship, design and experience, providing essential tools that influence the art, culture and creation of photography. Photoville attendees can see this firsthand at the Leica Pavilion, which will showcase a one-of-a-kind photographic experience through a variety of interactive Leica activities designed to ignite your passion for photography.

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