“I think that it’ll take a lifetime for me to ever be satisfied with my work.”
TEXT: Holly Stuart Hughes for Photo District News
Sandy Point, St. Kitts
Katrina Media Fellowship, OSI, Eddie Adams Workshop, LIFE Magazine Award
Esquire, Essence, Newsweek, Repubblica XL, Trace, Vibe, XXL, NYTimes.com
Open Society Institute, New York; The African American Museum of Philadelphia; The Nathan Cummings Foundation, New York; The George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, The Corridor Gallery and The Calumet Gallery, New York
“Traveling to Jamaica to photograph dance hall artist Mavado for Vibe magazine. I traveled with Vibe editor Rob Kenner and we were given the green light to photograph Mavado in the ghetto where he was born and raised. In the end, it ran for six pages.”
“The greatest challenge for any young photographer at this point is trying to establish a business in an environment where everybody is trying to get more for less.”
In the year 2000, Wayne Lawrence was working as a carpenter in Reseda, California, “looking for something else do that I felt passionate about” when he came across Black in America by Eli Reed and A Choice of Weapons, the autobiography of Gordon Parks, at the public library. They introduced him to “a documentary tradition that I knew instantly that I wanted to be a part of.” His obsession with photography lead him to community college classes and then to the Visual Journalism program at Brooks.
One day on his way to Brooks, he spotted photographer Kwaku Alston parked in his car on a Los Angeles street, and asked him for an internship. The nine months he worked in Alston’s studio was an invaluable practical education, Lawrence says, “because Kwaku is so meticulous about his business.”
A native of St. Kitts, Lawrence moved in 2004 to New York where he has used street photography and portraits to explore “my experience as an immigrant and my appreciation for the people I meet on the street and the culture of the city.” To pursue editorial work, he emails photo editors a link to his web site; he’s landed many of his jobs through word of mouth. Over several summers, he’s shot portraits at Orchard Beach in the Bronx using a tripod and on-camera flash. After he posted them on his Facebook page, two friends independently recommended the work to Jim Estrin, editor of The New York Times Lens Blog. The series ran on the blog, along with an interview with Lawrence, in December 2009.