Kwaku Alston

Mississippi © 2005 KWAKU ALSTON

Kwaku Alston
Juke Joint-Savoy, Mississippi, 2005
Archival Pigment Print
Hahnemuhle Fine Art Baryta Satin
27” x 40”
A/P 1

©Per Bernal

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 DesignACure 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.

When did you start using Leica? 
I received my first Leica IIIF my freshman year at the Rochester Institute of Technology from a family friend to help inspire me on my photographic journey. I quickly fell in love with the size and beauty of the images and saved for years to buy a Leica M3.
What is your favorite camera? 
My favorite Leica camera has to be the Monochrome series. I’m drawn to the purity of black and white images, which was what initially captivated me about photography. The sensor quality in these cameras is unparalleled. Most importantly, deliberately shooting in black and white provides a unique user experience that takes me back to the core of why I create images – it’s all about form and composition, shadow and light.
What is your favorite subject matter to shoot? 

I have a deep passion for capturing portraits of people in their natural environments. Whether it’s an everyday person or a celebrity, it’s the connection and the emotions I experience when I encounter a face that truly inspires me. I appreciate how the environment can serve as the subtext or backstory of each portrait.

What other Leica camera are you thinking of getting?
The New M11P Monochrome and the S3

How has Leica changed your life?Leica transcends being just a camera; it’s a vibrant community that has brought me closer to people from around the globe, leading to the formation of meaningful friendships. Leica isn’t merely a product; it’s a way of life.

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