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 Jennifer Hudson, to sports stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Jason Collins, 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, Sports Illustrated, 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.
Based in Venice Beach, California, he is also an accomplished lifestyle photographer, a genre he has avidly pursued through personal projects such as his series "Volkslivin," which comprises photos of vintage Volkswagen buses, spontaneous portraits of people and places he encounters on his bike rides (Venice"), the portrait series "Horizon Court, named for the Venice neighborhood, and "Fatherhood," a series inspired by the birth of his first child.
"I feel it’s more important to do projects that matter to me and complement my personal beliefs," Kwaku says. "If I can use photography to help change the way people view themselves and their relation to the world, then I've done my job. Now that I am a father, it is important to me for my son to see me passionate about doing what I love and making a difference through my art.
To that end, Kwaku also donates his time to a variety of charities and nonprofits and 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 self-awareness 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, one must give back."
Follow Kwaku on Instagram at instagram.com/kwakualston.