In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Barbadian-heritage Kwame Brathwaite used his photography to popularize the political slogan “Black Is Beautiful.” This monograph―the first ever dedicated to Brathwaite’s remarkable career―tells the story of a key, but under-recognized, 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 (1962). AJASS was a collective of artists, playwrights, designers, and dancers; Grandassa Models was a modeling agency for black women, founded to challenge white beauty standards. From stunning studio portraits of the Grandassa Models to behind-the-scenes images of Harlem’s artistic community, including Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, and Miles Davis, this book offers a long-overdue exploration of Brathwaite’s life and work.
Here’s more about the #BlackIsBeautiful exhibit at Columbia, SC Museum of Art & the conversations that have developed from it.
Black Is Beautiful
with contributions by Tanisha C. Ford and Deborah Willis
Published by Aperture, 2019
In The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion, curator and critic Antwaun Sargent addresses a radical transformation taking place in fashion and art today. The featuring of the Black figure and Black runway and cover models in the media and art has been one marker of increasingly inclusive fashion and art communities. More critically, however, the contemporary visual vocabulary around beauty and the body has been reinfused with new vitality and substance thanks to an increase in powerful images authored by an international community of Black photographers.
In a richly illustrated essay, Sargent opens up the conversation around the role of the Black body in the marketplace; the cross-pollination between art, fashion, and culture in constructing an image; and the institutional barriers that have historically been an impediment to Black photographers participating more fully in the fashion (and art) industries. Photographs by Campbell Addy, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Micaiah Carter, Awol Erizku, Nadine Ijewere, Quil Lemons, Namsa Leuba, Renell Medrano, Tyler Mitchell, Jamal Nxedlana, Daniel Obasi, Ruth Ossai, Adrienne Raquel, Dana Scruggs, and Stephen Tayo. The book includes conversations with Shaniqwa Jarvis, Mickalene Thomas, and Deborah Willis.
The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion
Illustrated Edition published by Aperture, 2019
To date, there has never been an art book devoted exclusively to black models. Supreme Models fills that void, paying tribute to black models past and present: from the first to be featured in catalogs and on magazine covers, like Iman, Beverly Johnson, and Donyale Luna, to the supermodels who reigned in the nineties–Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell. The book also observes the newest generation of models–Adwoa Aboah, Jourdan Dunn, and Joan Smalls–who are shaking up the fashion industry by speaking out about racial prejudice and becoming social media sensations.
Written by celebrity stylist and journalist Marcellas Reynolds, Supreme Models features more than 70 women from the last 75 years. The book is filled with gorgeous photographs of the women, and details their most memorable covers, campaigns, runway shows, and editorials. Black models have been influencing fashion and pop culture for decades, reshaping the standards and boundaries of beauty. Supreme Models is a celebration of their monumental impact.
Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionalized Fashion
by Marcellas Reynolds
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; Illustrated edition, 2019.
From her Barbados childhood to her worldwide tours, from iconic fashion moments to private time with friends and family, the book showcases intimate photographs of her life as an artist, performer, designer, and entrepreneur. Many of these images have never before been published.
This large-format book is 504 pages with 1,050 color images on 3 paper stocks and 7 single- and double-page gatefolds, 9 bound-in booklets, 1 tip-in sheet, and a double-sided, removable poster.
The Rihanna Book
Illustrated edition by Phaidon Press, 2019
Alek Wek has been the face of ad campaigns for companies ranging from Coach to Michael Kors to Nars and has worked the runways on behalf of designers such as Diane von Furstenberg and Christian Dior. Yet her defining moments extend beyond the runways of New York, Milan, Paris, and London.
Born to a middle-class family in the Sudan, Wek found her life suddenly inverted when civil war broke out among outlaw militias, the Muslim-dominated government, and southern rebels. The conflict not only killed two million people, it created an entire community of refugees, including Wek’s family—many of whom fled to London. Here is Wek’s incredible, daring story of rising from refugee to international supermodel.
Alek: My Life From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel
by Alek Wek
Published by Amistad; Reprint edition
This month’s theme #BlackIsBeautiful is curated by Shauntee Burns-Simpson.
Shauntee Burns-Simpson (MLIS) currently serves as the 2020-2022 President of BCALA. She is the Associate Director of School Outreach for The New York Public Library. An ambassador for libraries and Youth Librarian, President Burns-Simpson enjoys connecting people to the public library and its resources. She works closely with at-risk teens and fosters a love of reading & learning with her innovative programs. In addition to leading BCALA, she chairs the American Library Association Office of Diversity, Literacy, & Outreach Services (ODLOS) Committee on Diversity.