‘Black Hollywood’ reshoots classic film scenes with Black actors


For eleven years, photographer Carell Augustus has created portraits of Black actors recast in classic Hollywood films like “The Shining,” “Bonnie & Clyde,” “Dirty Dancing,” “The Graduate” and “Back to the Future.” His resultant book, “Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments,” from Ebony Magazine publishing, hopes to amend the glaring omission of Black representation in the mainstream media during Hollywood’s golden ages.

Growing up in the 1980s, Augustus said, Black people were absent from mainstream cinema and pop culture imagery. He notes a particular distinction between how Black and white women were represented at the time and how frequently.

“The first time I saw a Black woman nude in a film, it felt awkward, weird, not right,” he wrote in the book’s introduction. “The image I was looking at was all very National Geographic and not meant to be attractive or alluring, but I knew in my 12-year-old soul something deeper was going on.”

“Their breasts were tied to their waistbands, they had four or five babies wrapped around them and they had baskets on their head,” he recalled by phone in advance of his book’s launch. “And all of that is absolutely beautiful but as a young teen, 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 in those roles like that.

“I got to watch my mom and aunts do their cornrows and put on makeup, put beads in their hair,” he added. “So I got that culturally from them but as far as imagery, it was not prevalent at all when I was growing up. I think a lot of it has changed for the better now, but it definitely wasn’t something that was focused upon.”

As a rising photographer in the early aughts, Augustus resolved to put Black people at the forefront of his work. The idea to make a book re-creating iconic Hollywood moments with an all-Black cast came on June 25, 2009 — the day Michael Jackson died.

“That day, no matter how you felt about him, his music was everywhere,” said Augustus. “I just thought as unfortunate as this whole thing is, at least he left the world all of this incredible talent to let us know that he was here. So that’s how it came to me. I wanted to do something impactful that I could focus on the Black community [with] and say, ‘Listen, I was here as an artist at one point.’”

Here, Augustus describes the process of putting the book together.

A woman with long hair in a satiny gown sits alluringly in an ornate armchair.

Vivica A. Fox as Veronica Lake: “Turning Vivica into Veronica Lake was an expo like no other. We filmed this for the TV show ‘L.A. Hair’ and well, you can find the episode online. [She] and the show’s star, China Upshaw, were met with creative differences but we ended up with a phenomenal set of photos,” said photographer Carell Augustus.

(Carell Augustus)


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