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Oct. 3rd | Black Hollywood: Here Before Now with Kwaku Alston

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?

Saturday, Oct. 3rd | 1PM PST

Alston examines how he chooses to represent himself, 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. He 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, he will share some of the insights and stories behind the image-making process.

This Leica Conversation is presented in partnership with Photoville.

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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 Magazine, Time 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 and began shooting for major magazines and ad agencies while in his early 20s. Today he bases himself out of both New York and Los Angeles and his photos have appeared on everything from movie posters, to the covers of best selling books, to 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 remind 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, and is inspired to bridge still photography and filmmaking to tell great stories.

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