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All © Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey and Young People
(4:15 min.)

Dawoud Bey and Young People

Dawoud Bey's Process
(3:31 min.)

Dawoud Bey's Process

Dawoud Bey (born 1953)

Dawoud Bey's interest in portraiture grows from a strong desire to counter stereotypes by encouraging the recognition of socially and culturally diverse American adolescents as complex and engaging members of our society. "I am mindful," he says, "that portraiture has been a way for a select group of people, the gentrified class, to perpetuate their images. Museums all over the world are filled with portraits that moneyed people were able to commission of themselves....I like to bring the same attention to ordinary people." Bey's portrait-making process depends upon prolonged exchanges between artist and subject, rather than fleeting, impersonal encounters. The result is a highly collaborative endeavor in which his youthful sitters play a critical role in constructing images that enable them to assert their identity as individuals and "reclaim their right to look, to see, and to be seen."

Bey, a New York native, began his career as a photographer in 1975 by chronicling life on the streets of Harlem. The images resulting from this multiyear project were the subject of his first one-person exhibition, "Harlem, USA" at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. Although his earliest work was documentary in nature, Bey's passion since the late 1980s has been portraiture. He has completed collaborative projects with numerous communities and museums, and his photographs have been exhibited and published widely. Bey holds an MFA from Yale University School of Art (1993) and has received many awards and honors, including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1991) and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (2002). He is currently a professor of photography at Columbia College, Chicago.


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A printed transcript of Dawoud Bey's discussion is also available here.
     Audio transcript (PDF)

portraiture now
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