Caribbean-American Artist Laura Alston is Committed to Inclusivity and Change
Laura Alston gives her subjects a chance to direct her in the creative process. Her collaborative approach, which includes photography, visual storytelling, and filmmaking, explores “marginal narratives of the Black diaspora” and highlights inequities in the world at large. Alston has a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts from Columbia University in New York, and has lived and worked in London, Florida, and Grenada. By photographing people she encounters in her travels, she hopes to increase diversity in creative spheres while investigating issues of gender, race, and colonialism.
Inspired by her grandfather’s stories of growing up in the West Indies, Alston spent time in the Caribbean discovering her heritage. In addition to becoming a soul-searching journey, the trip gave her a chance to bond with people she met along the way. Alston’s sensitive environmental portraits of people she encountered during her travels, and her reflective self-portraits, “capture moments from black experience” while focusing on unique qualities of the individual. Offering her subjects agency in their choice of poses, clothing, or environments adds a sense of collaboration and dialogue to the process.
Through intentional travel, I’ve been able to form relationships with diverse groups of people who have welcomed and appreciated my desire to capture the beauty in the small intimacies and complexities of their cultures. I think of these connections as evidence of radical, inter-generational and multicultural community building. They also serve as reflections of self-advocacy and a growing commitment to storytelling that reverberates agency and justice.
In addition to earning a degree in Fine Art, Alston studied Art Direction at the School of Economics in London. She has exhibited her work at the Studio Museum of Harlem, Columbia University, and the Tate. As an artist of color, she has experienced moments of alienation, but considers herself part of a “global community of creatives changing the visual arts to be a more welcoming environment of learning and expression for people from all walks of life.” Alston’s multi-cultural approach and historical line of inquiry shows how the art world is being shaped and transformed by generations of artists committed to inclusivity and change.
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Laura Alston — Artist Statement
For years I questioned my origin story—not where I was born, but that of the generations born before me. I held hope that my grandpa’s complex, sun-soaked stories of Caribbean life extended beyond the tourism eclipsed lens of the West Indies. This soul-searching for authenticity guided me to embark on an ancestral journey through the Caribbean uncovering my heritage and identity. To my surprise, I found my artistic purpose along the way. I developed a desire through photography & film to explore the marginal narratives of the Black diaspora & interrogate formations of identity and body autonomy.
Storytelling with archival intent is a succinct way to characterize my work in that my purpose is to amplify each subject's narrative, and be a platform for the historically silenced. I have further narrowed this focus to migration and the intimacies of domestic life. As a result I return to themes of identity within the black experience—balancing how we come to know ourselves and what others perceive. My intention as a photographer is to give the subjects the agency to lead with their truths so that I can amplify their identity in a way that feels genuine—a practice where documentary is infused with the imagination. In my creative approach, I lean towards capturing the wordless emotions that we can see in the creasing of our eyes or the slight downturn of our lips, and feel satisfied when viewers resonate with the authenticity. My work is a mirror—it affirms our place in the world, yet extends our perceptions of self into new light.
Laura Alston – 2021 Grant Submission Work
Laura Alston – Artist Bio
Laura Alston (b. 1995) is a Caribbean American artist who employs multidisciplinary approaches in explorations of marginal narratives of the Black diaspora. She works, especially, within photography, film, and new media to interrogate formations of global Black identities and body autonomy–offering her subjects the power to direct her in a collaborative creative process. While her work often centers notions of race, she is also invested in gender studies, histories of migration, representations of the domestic, anti-colonialism, & storytelling with archival intent.
Laura earned her BA in Visual Arts at Columbia University and studied Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins, as well as Art Direction at the London College of Communication. Her work has been exhibited at notable institutions such as the Studio Museum in Harlem, Tate Britain, Okay Space Gallery, and Columbia University. Additionally, her work has earned several honors including an Artist Grant in Fine Arts from the Puffin Foundation in 2017 and a nomination for a Screen Nation-Digital IsMedia Favorite Short Film Award in 2018. Laura cites Jamel Shabazz, Malick Sidibe, band Zwelethu Mthethwa among others as artistic influences.
Laura Alston on the Web And Social Media
Here’s where to find out more about Laura on the web and social media:
About the Artist of the Day Series
All artworks have been published with permission of the artist. Our "Artist of the Day" series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100's of grant applications we receive. The "Not Real Art Grant" is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists, and this is one way we honor all entries we receive. Find out more about the grant program here.