Kwasi B: Rebel, Scientist [visual art feature]

"Freeway" © Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

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(Kwasi B: Rebel, Scientist | by Danielle Scruggs) Kwasi Kareem Boyd-Bouldin, a.k.a. Kwasi B., a.k.a. the Rebel Scientist notices things. That may seem like a rather banal statement, but for a photographer, it’s all in the noticing. The way late afternoon sunlight streams through the windows of a bus; the way telephone wires cut through blue skies and puffy, cumulus clouds; the way shadows crisscross over a man standing in front of a newsstand painted an impossible shade of deep green.

Kwasi B., who was born in Brooklyn and moved to Los Angeles when he was three years old, offers his unique view of life in the City of Angels. It’s a little strange at times, a little gritty, and wholly fascinating. His work is most reminiscent of William Eggleston, Walker Evans and Stephen Shore, photographers who elevated ordinary, every day landscapes, objects and people to meditations on space and the passage of time.

In addition to photography, Kwasi is also a graphic designer and illustrator, the Computer Lab Coordinator at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and a student at Cal State Los Angeles. He took the time for an e-mail interview with the Liberator to discuss his work and inspirations.

LM: How has growing up and living in Los Angeles affected your work? I noticed a lot of your photos are taken in the Metro or on the bus. I thought that was interesting because L.A. has (or is perceived as having) such a heavy emphasis on cars and driving everywhere. How does that, if at all, affect your perspective on L.A. and how you take photos?

KB: Growing up in Los Angeles is the biggest influence on my work there is. When I was younger, I think that I took the city for granted but as I got older I realized that there is no other place like it. One of the reasons that photography has become my primary form of expression is because I’ve developed a strong inclination to preserve the portrait of Los Angeles that I grew up with. That’s also the reason that I had to incorporate the MTA buses into my photography. Most people in L.A. think the bus is terrible but some of my best memories took place riding the bus.

LM: Would you mind sharing one or two of those memories?

KB: I remember specifically when I was in 9th grade when people used to ride the back grill of the bus and bomb it while it was moving. When school let out at Bancroft Middle School, a crazy amount of crews like JOR, JS, and what was then the beginning of the MTA crew would just hang at the corner or Santa Monica and Highland and kill every bus that came by. That was live. There is also the time when the transit cops raided the bus looking for my crew and a couple others and I was smart enough to notice and casually walk off the bus before they could talk to me. Buses just remind me of my adventures as a delinquent in Los Angeles.

LM: I really enjoy looking at the Los Angeles Recordings series. The images feel closer to my initial impressions of L.A., which I've always thought was a bit seedier and grittier than the stereotypical view of the city. Can you talk a bit about what gave you the idea to pursue this project and where you hope to go with it?

KB: The Los Angeles Recordings is my own personal portrait of the neighborhoods I grew up in. I focus on Koreatown, Downtown, and Hollywood because this is the area I’ve lived in for my whole life. The lifestyle here is so unique and different from other areas that I had to document the area and its residents. The series is divided into four parts, which are published through my website quarterly. There are two volumes up at the website and the next installment is due this summer. At the end of the year, I will be releasing a book of the best images from the series which will be available through my website as well. Eventually, I would like to photograph other cities and document neighborhoods other than my own.

LM: What sparked your interest in photography and illustration? Do you have any formal training in photography and illustration/graphic design?

KB: My interest in the visual arts began when I was really young. I was completely obsessed with Transformers, Robotech and other cartoons having to do with giant robots. When I found out that those cartoons were from Japan I began to look for other random Japanese anime toys that I could find, or rather that my mom could find in the toy district for me. From that point I always knew that I wanted to create things...The photography aspect came in after my father passed away. He left me an old Olympus camera that sparked that side of my brain. I set out to capture the side of the city that side that most people don’t notice. I have a little formal training in both design and photography but I’m mostly self-taught. I am currently wrapping up my B.A. in design and I plan on applying to graduate school for fine art photography.

To see more of Kwasi B.'s work, visit his website, Rebel Sciences.