When Queen Bey announced she was expected twins, social media went wild with congratulatory messages and heart emojis. This was mostly because of the exciting news, but partly due to the way Beyoncé presented these exciting developments. Taking to Instagram as you do in moments of great importance, the pop star made her declaration with a gorgeous photo set against a soft cerulean sky bordering a large bouquet of flowers. In the center of the shot, she knelt in a dark purple bra and airy green veil. The post broke records for engagement and comments making her two new twins instant celebrities before they were even born. There was another meteoric rise to fame after this post went viral back in February. His name is Awol Erizku, the photographer who came up with this photo concept and shot pregnant Beyoncé shortly before things exploded. Here’s a little bit more about Mr. Erizku.
Though raised in the South Bronx, Erizku was born in east Africa and spent his early life in Ethiopia. You can sense these cultural roots in the vibrant colors of his work. Now, the artist works out of a studio in downtown Los Angeles. Though he’s primarily an LA photographer, he got his start in a New York basement under a flower shop. Just goes to show what hard work and dedication can bring if you persevere.
HE WENT TO YALE
A Cooper Union alumni, Erizku studied photography at the respected NYC school back in 2010. Upon graduation, he dove right in and started building his professional career working for talented photographers like David LaChapelle and Lorna Simpson. While he grew under their careful tutelage, he also attended Yale University and graduated in 2014 with a master of fine arts. Clearly, he’s not only talented, he knows what he’s doing.
INSTAGRAM IS HIS GALLERY
Awol has displayed his work at many physical studios throughout his career, but the most consistent place to see his artwork is Instagram. That’s because he uses the social media tool as a literal gallery to share his work with a wider audience. If you go to follow him (@awolerizku) and his account is marked as private, it’s because the gallery isn’t open yet. Public hours are Monday through Friday, usually 9 to 5. It’s a genius way to use social media as a professional media for freelance work. You may well be looking at the future of gallery shows.
PHOTOGRAPHY ISN’T HIS ONLY MEDIUM
February’s fashion shoot with Queen Bey launched Awol to international stardom, but photography isn’t his only skill. He’s actually famous for other art forms. One of his signature pieces features a black hand holding a red rose and was displayed at the Nina Johnson Gallery to much acclaim last winter. He also designed the red car Beyoncé posed atop in another of her pregnancy shoots. He may be new to a lot of passionate fashion fans, but the Beyoncé pregnancy shoot was just the next step in Erizku’s blossoming career.
THIS ISN’T HIS FIRST WORK WITH QUEEN BEY
2014 was the first time Erizku worked with Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Before any talk of pregnancy, he captured their trip to the Louvre museum. It was a playful time for both the artist and his subjects. At one point the museum let the couple temporarily replace the Mona Lisa with Erizku’s Girl With the Bamboo Earring. That’s some pretty epic networking right there.
Beyoncé’s twins are definitely something to get excited about, but as you’re drooling over her photo reveal again and again on social media, don’t forget the man behind the photo. Awol Erizku deserves credit for his brilliant idea and I bet there are plenty more where that came from. Keep an eye on his Instagram for the artist’s next big reveal coming soon.
— Julie Grossman