A DEEP LOVE OF BLACK PEOPLE and Black culture rings throughout the practice of Kwame Braithwaite, a self-described artist-activist who has said “Black is Beautiful was my directive.”

His photography is on view at Philip Martin Gallery in Los Angeles. “Kwame Brathwaite: The Struggle Continues, Victory is Certain” showcases his iconic portraits, street shots, and behind-the-scenes images of the Black arts community, primarily from 1964 to the 1970s.

 


Installation view of “Kwame Brathwaite: The Struggle Continues, Victory is Certain,” Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles (Sept. 12-Oct. 9, 2020). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 

Braithwaite’s photography reflects his life and political vision. Originally from Barbados, Braithwaite’s parents first moved to Brooklyn, then to the Bronx where the artist grew up. His father owned tailor shops and dry cleaners in Harlem. With his brother Elombe Brath, Braithwaite co-founded the African Jazz-Art Society & Studios (AJASS). He has said AJASS was an ode to their love of jazz and the Black nationalist teachings of Marcus Garvey. They also established the Gradassa Models, a group of female models that promoted an Afrocentric aesthetic.

The images Braithwaite made during that time are very much of the moment, defined by African-inspired fashion, natural hairstyles, and the latest political concerns. At the same time, the images are classic and timeless, with a contemporary vision that connects with today’s viewers.

The images Braithwaite made during that time are very much of the moment, defined by African-inspired fashion, natural hairstyles, and the latest political concerns. At the same time, the images are classic and timeless, with a contemporary vision that connects with today’s viewers.

“Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite” introduced him to a new generation. Organized by Aperture and Kwame S. Braithwaite, the artist’s son, his first-ever major exhibition opened last year at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles and continues to travel.

The presentation at Philip Martin features large- and small-scale works, and a new selection of images printed for the first time last fall and this spring. The subject of “Untitled (Deedee Little),” one of the newly released photographs is a statuesque model.

The artist’s son serves as director of The Kwame Brathwaite Archive. In the exhibition description he explained how his father approached the circa 1970 image: “What he is looking at here is this wide-angled view of the entire person. You see the beautiful head piece and the jewelry, this incredible piece of fashion. We are seeing this connection back to Africa, this connection to culture, but also this self-sufficiency, and the concept of Buy Black.”

Shot through with pride and beauty, Braithwaite’s work spans several categories, from fashion photography to documentary photography embedded with cultural history. Profound stories lie within his images, whether captured inside the art gallery of Merton Simpson; across the street from Michaux Books, a Black-owned bookstore in Harlem; featuring the ladder Malcolm X stood on to recite his profound orator; or honing in on “Buy Black” signs in the window of an African market, affixed to the wall during a Grandassa Models fashion show, or emblazoned on a sign perched high next to Charles Peaker Street Speaker.

Braithwaite continues to live and work in New York City. The title of the Philip Martin show is drawn from the preface he wrote for the “Black is Beautiful” exhibition catalog. The artist reflects on having had the opportunity to photograph Muhammad Ali while he was training, Bob Marley at his home on Hope Road in Kingston, Jamaica, and a transcendent, international political leader.

“On of my favorite experiences was attending Nelson Mandela’s inauguration; it represented years of work finally coming to fruition,” Braithwaite wrote. “It almost felt like our job was done…but it wasn’t. Oppression still exists today, and we must keep fighting, keep pushing until we are all free. A luta continua a vitória é certa—the struggle continues, victory is certain.” CT

 

“Kwame Brathwaite: The Struggle Continues, Victory is Certain” is on view at Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles, Sept. 12-Oct. 9, 2020. By appointment only

 

FIND MORE about Kwame Braithwaite on his website

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (Deedee Little),” circa 1970s, printed 2020 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (Garvey Day Parade – Harlem),” circa 1967, printed 2018 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, Installation view of “Untitled (Model who embraced natural hairstyles at AJASS photoshoot),” circa 1970, printed 2018 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (African Market, Harlem),” circa 1967, printed 2019 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (Carolee Prince wearing her own designs),” circa 1964, printed 2018 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


Installation view of “Kwame Brathwaite: The Struggle Continues, Victory is Certain,” Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles (Sept. 12-Oct. 9, 2020). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (Charles Peaker Street Speaker, head of ANPM after Carlos Cooks passed away, on 125th street),” circa 1968, printed 2016 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (AJASS Model Multiple Exposure),” circa 1970s, printed 2019 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (Grandassa Models, Merton Simpson Gallery),” circa 1966, printed 2017 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (Michaux’s Books),” circa 1964, printed 2020 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (Sikolo Brathwaite at AJASS studios),” circa 1968, printed 2016 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (Fashion show at Renaissance Casino and Ballroom),” circa 1967, printed 2017 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, Untitled (Men at photoshoot at a school in the 1960s), circa 1966, printed 2018 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


Installation view of “Kwame Brathwaite: The Struggle Continues, Victory is Certain,” Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles (Sept. 12-Oct. 9, 2020). Shown, from left, “Untitled (Photo shoot at a school for one of the many modeling groups who had begun to embrace natural hairstyles in the 1960s),” 1966; “Untitled (Men at photoshoot at a school in the 1960s),” circa 1966; and “Untitled (White Dress),” circa 1970s. | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (Patrons at an AJASS concert, Club 845, Bronx),” circa 1956-57, printed 2019 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


Installation view of “Kwame Brathwaite: The Struggle Continues, Victory is Certain,” Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles (Sept. 12-Oct. 9, 2020). Shown, from left, “Untitled (Photo shoot at a school for one of the many modeling groups who had begun to embrace natural hairstyles in the 1960s),” 1966, and “Untitled (Men at photoshoot at a school in the 1960s),” circa 1966. | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


KWAME BRAITHWAITE, “Untitled (White Dress),” circa 1970s, printed 2019 (archival pigment print, framed). | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 


Installation view of “Kwame Brathwaite: The Struggle Continues, Victory is Certain,” Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles (Sept. 12-Oct. 9, 2020). Shown, center, “Untitled (White Dress),” circa 1970s. | © Kwame Braithwaite, Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles

 

BOOKSHELF
The exhibition catalog “Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful” is authored by Tanisha C. Ford and includes a preface by Kwame Braithwaite and an essay contribution by Deborah Willis. The fully illustrated volume accompanies the first-ever major exhibition of Braithwaite, a traveling show opened at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles (April 11–Sept. 1, 2019), was presented at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (Dec. 4, 2019–March 1, 2020) and the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, S.C. (June 27 – Sept. 6, 2020), and is forthcoming at the following venues: Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas (June 27–Sept. 19, 2021), Reynolda House in Winston-Salem, N.C. (Feb. 2–May 8, 2022), and The New-York Historical Society (Aug. 19, 2022–Jan. 16, 2023). Dates are subject to change.

 

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