Kwaku Alston has photographed some of the most famous faces in the world – from Hollywood luminaries like Brad Pitt, Will Smith, Robert Downey Jr., and Drew Barrymore to President Barack Obama and the First Family – for editorial and advertising clients ranging from Crate & Barrel, Coca-Cola, Blackberry, Target, and Verizon to The New York Times Magazine, Real Simple, and Time. His portraits have a fresh, unaffected feel, yet they celebrate the extraordinariness of his subjects, striking a balance between contemporary documentary photography and classic celebrity portraiture.
Kwaku launched his career in New York City, where he moved after graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. (In 2012, he was honored at the school’s Distinguished Alumni Awards.) His success was almost instantaneous, and he began shooting for major magazines and ad agencies while still in his early 20s. He now splits his time between New York and Venice Beach, California, and finds that his passion for photography burns more brightly than ever.
In addition to his ongoing personal series “On White,” which comprises portraits of everyday people, Kwaku has also developed a number of series inspired by the life and culture that surround him in Venice Beach. These include photos of vintage Volkswagen buses (“Volkslivin”), spontaneous portraits of people and places he encounters on his bike rides (“Venice”), and the portrait series “Horizon Court,” named for the hardscrabble Venice neighborhood.
Kwaku also donates his time to a variety of charities and nonprofits, including the DesignACure Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, the Black AIDS Institute, the Smiley Faces Foundation, and the Venice Family Clinic. He has twice documented shoe drops – in Ethiopia and Argentina – by TOMS Shoes, which donates footwear to children in need worldwide. “I believe it is essential for any artist seeking complete selfawareness to be fully involved in the world, both internally as well as externally, in order to achieve the highest perspective,” says Kwaku, who also photographed the TOMS vision-wear campaign in 2011. “To obtain this goal, I must give back and spend as much time as possible with my wife and child.”