For eleven years, photographer Carell Augustus has been creating portraits of black actors who have been reimagined in classic Hollywood films such as The Shining, Bonnie & Clyde, Dirty Dancing, The Graduate and Back to the Future . His resulting book, Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments, from Ebony Magazine, hopes to rectify the glaring under-representation of black people in mainstream media during Hollywood’s golden age.
Growing up in the 1980s, Augustus said, blacks were absent from mainstream cinema and pop culture imagery. He notes a particular difference between the way black and white women were represented at the time and how common.
“When I first saw a black woman nude in a movie, it felt weird, weird, not right,” he wrote in the book’s introduction. “The picture I was looking at was all very National Geographic and wasn’t meant to be attractive or alluring, but I knew something deeper was going on in my 12-year-old soul.”
“Their breasts were tied to their waistband, they had four or five babies wrapped around them, and they had baskets on their heads,” he recalled over the phone ahead of his book’s publication. “And all of that is absolutely beautiful, but as a young teenager it didn’t look appealing [in the same way] the Lynda Carters, Farrah Fawcetts and Jessica Langes were always made to look. They didn’t put black women into those roles like that.
“I had to watch my mom and aunts do their cornrows, put on makeup and put pearls in their hair,” he added. “So I got that from them culturally, but as far as imagery goes, it wasn’t prevalent at all growing up. I think a lot of that has changed for the better now, but it definitely wasn’t something to focus on.”
As an aspiring early-morning photographer, Augustus decided to put black people at the forefront of his work. The idea of making a book recreating iconic Hollywood moments with an all-black cast came about on June 25, 2009 – the day Michael Jackson died.
“His music was everywhere that day,” Augustus said. “I just thought, as unfortunate as this whole thing is, at least he left all this incredible talent to the world to let us know he’s here. So that’s how it came to me. I wanted to do something impactful that focused on the black community [with] and say, ‘Listen, I was here once as an artist.’”
Here Augustus describes the process of compiling the book.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2022-10-04/black-hollywood-photo-book-carell-augustus ‘Black Hollywood’ reshoots classic film scenes with Black actors