Photo shoot at a public school

Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite

October 8, 2021 – January 16, 2022

In this exhibition are over forty large-scale color and black-and-white photographs by Kwame Brathwaite. His work helped advance one of the most influential cultural movements of the 1960s, "Black Is Beautiful," when black women and men turned to natural hairstyles and African-inspired clothing.  Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite is the first major exhibition dedicated to Brathwaite, a vital figure of the second Harlem Renaissance. Inspired by activist and black nationalist Marcus Garvey's writings, 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 the exhibition's contents— was a modeling agency for black women, founded to challenge white beauty standards. The exhibition includes documentary photographs of stunning studio portraits, fashion work, to behind-the-scenes images of Harlem's artistic and jazz community, including Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln. It offers a long-overdue exploration of Brathwaite's life and work.

Kwame Brathwaite, Photo shoot at a public school for one of the AJASS-associated modeling groups that emulated the Grandassa Models and began to embrace natural hairstyles. Harlem, ca. 1966; from Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful (Aperture, 2019)

Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite is organized Aperture, New York and Kwame S. Brathwaite. 

The exhibition and the accompanying Aperture publication are made possible, in part, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Photographic Arts Council Los Angeles. All photographs are courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles.  

At the Detroit Institute of Arts, major support is generously provided by Cadillac. 

Additional support is provided by Lisa Pernick and Bruce Israel, Maureen and Roy S. Roberts, and Rhonda D. Welburn.