In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Kwame Brathwaite used photography to popularize the political slogan “Black Is Beautiful.” This exhibition—the first ever dedicated to Brathwaite’s remarkable career—tells the story of a key figure of the second Harlem Renaissance.
Inspired by the writings of activist and black nationalist Marcus Garvey, Brathwaite, along with his older brother, Elombe Brath, founded the African Jazz Arts Society and Studios (AJASS) and the Grandassa Models. AJASS was a collective of artists, playwrights, designers, and dancers. Grandassa Models—the subject of much of this show’s contents— was a modeling agency for black women, founded to challenge white beauty standards. From stunning studio portraits to behind-the-scenes images of Harlem’s artistic community, including Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, this show offers a long-overdue exploration of Brathwaite’s life and work.
Kwame Brathwaite (b. 1938 in Brooklyn, New York) is represented by Philip Martin in Los Angeles, and is included in the exhibition Mod New York, on view at the Museum of the City of New York through April 1, 2018. He was honored at Aperture Foundation’s fall 2017 gala.